Just as the great egrets hatched back in March fledge, a new set of nests are under construction and more babies are on the way to Gatorland’s Bird Rookery. The rookery is alive with birds, from nesting adults, fledging chicks learning to fly, and babies of all ages.
I heard this cattle egret nest before I saw it. Each species has a particular baby “fuss” sound. I peeked down and around some branches, then saw these babies. They moved so fast, it was hard to catch all three of them looking at the camera.
Fledging tricolored herons were all over the rookery. In some cases, I’d never noticed the nests until the juveniles were big enough to come out and stand on top of the bushes.
This nest of tricoloreds came alive as the mother returned with breakfast. The babies go crazy, dancing around, shoving their beaks at their mother. Generally the pictures come out as a blur of wings and beaks, but this one was actually pretty good.
A few trees back, I saw this tricolored mother sit up a bit, and out popped three little babies. The babies are so funny when they are this age. They look like they are having very bad hair days (the younger the chicks, the worse the hair!)
I lucked out and was standing right there when this cattle egret stood up, revealing her one tiny chick in the nest below. She regurgitated something green and the chick chowed down. Unfortunately there are two sticks from the side of the nest that block the action in most of my pictures… :-p
It’s surprising to see how quickly the snowy egrets, tricolored herons, and cattle egret chicks grow up. I guess I’m more used to the great egrets, who take a lot longer to fledge. With the smaller birds, it’s not unusual to see a bird incubating a nest one weekend, then see babies of this size the next weekend:
The far bank seems like it is covered in juvenile birds, especially anhingas. You have to wonder how the anhinga parents maintain any sanity, with clutches of up to six chicks (or seven, in this picture). These juveniles became very excited as their mother returned to the nest with food. The one lucky chick on the left got to feed, and the rest of the birds danced around, hoping for their turns, which didn’t come as I watched.
The wood stork nests are very active these days. I think the wood storks are much cuter as juveniles than they are as adults! From the observation tower, you could see right into the nests in the treetops on the far bank:
I climbed the observation tower three times before finding my baby double-crested cormorant awake. Sadly, the nest that once held three birds (one of which I saw hatch!) now only holds a single baby. I hope the mother builds a bigger nest next year. The baby has gotten bigger and cuter. He was begging like crazy for his breakfast, and his mother kept stepping farther away from the nest to get away from him. He started to edge out on the branch to reach her, but it didn’t take long for him to head back to the security of his nest.
As I left, I told the mother cormorant to take good care of her remaining baby. We don’t want any more alligator snacks!
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!
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