I returned to Gatorland’s Bird Rookery this morning to check up on my baby birds. They are getting so big! The rookery is a cacophony of little voices, all begging for food.
The great egret chicks are as big as their parents, but most of the chicks still haven’t fledged.
It’s amusing to watch the big juveniles shoving their beaks up their mother’s throat, like they did when they were several days old. One of the photographers put it perfectly: “it’s amazing that the adults survive!”
I’ve been watching a nest of snowy egrets near the boardwalk. I saw the first baby on the day that it hatched, when its siblings were still in eggs, and the mother kept very close and barely let me get a peek. The next week the birds were much bigger, and I hardly recognized them. Today they weren’t even in their own nest, but in the adjacent abandoned great egret nest. I guess they decided that they needed more room!
The clowns of the rookery are without a doubt the tri-colored heron chicks. The first chicks are starting to fledge. Dyeyo and I saw the babies from one nest on what I suspect was the day they hatched. Today those babies were wandering all over the trees, clearly enjoying their new-found independence.
Everywhere I turned, I saw tri-colored chicks. They were certainly the Top Posers of the day.
The chicks are definitely getting their tri-colored feathers, although they haven’t lost their “bad hair day” look.
I guess the adults felt like they were being outshined by their chicks. Several adults kept hopping down to the boardwalk fence to strut in front of the cameras. The problem for me was that my 400mm lens isn’t a zoom lens and I couldn’t fit more than their faces in the camera frame!
On the far bank, there is a ton of activity at anhinga nests. I hadn’t realized that there were so many! The juveniles with their white feathers contrast nicely with their black parents.
As always, I climbed into the observation tower to check on “my” double-crested cormorant nest (where I saw a baby hatch a few weeks ago). There were three chicks until last week, when one of them took a sad tumble over the side of the nest. I was relieved to see the two remaining chicks still in the nest, and they’ve gotten big enough that Mama has had to move out to give them room.
The first time I went up into the tower, the babies were sound asleep (like mother, like babies!) A little while later, I returned to see the babies begging for their breakfast. I thought the mother was going to feed them, but she just stretched, stepped a little farther from the nest, and went back to sleep. (I guess it’s hard work raising such demanding babies!)
I really liked this baby head close-up. The babies are starting to look more and more like their parents. I wonder when their eyes will turn that pretty blue?
I kept a close eye on the cattle egrets today, hoping that maybe they were concealing some babies in those nests. I wasn’t disappointed. As the morning went on, the adults stretched their legs, uncovered some tiny babies that reminded me a lot of the baby snowy egrets.
In another nest, a slightly older cattle egret chick posed next to its mother.
I kept watching and got a better shot of the baby. It’s funny to see black beaks on the babies when the adults have such pretty orange beaks and orange feather highlights.
I had to laugh as I watched this cattle egret adult. He took a little break from his nest and posed on the top of a bush for me. He preened and preened, and as he scratched his head, I wondered if he was thinking, “What in the world have I gotten myself into? Are my babies going to be as fussy as all the chicks around me?”
Want to learn more about nature photography at Gatorland Rookery?
Check out my Gatorland Rookery page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!