My new baby bird of the week was the Little Blue Heron. I’ve been watching a couple of nests for the past few weeks. One nest in particular has changed hands between Tricolored Herons and Little Blue Herons several times.
So today I finally noticed movement in the nest, and caught a glimpse of the tiny white baby inside. The nest wall was high, and the baby was so small, I couldn’t get wonderful pictures. We played “peek-a-boo” for several minutes before I got this shot:
Little Blue Herons are so easy to confuse with other birds. The juveniles are white, like egrets, and the breeding male has a dark brown neck, like a Tricolored Heron.
The Cattle Egrets continue to hatch. Some of the juveniles are already pretty big, and others looked like they had just hatched this morning. I enjoyed watching this mother feed her babies:
In another nest, the babies posed nicely, obliging me by looking at the camera together for a split second.
The nests are more and more obscured by the vegetation that is filling in rapidly. The nests are pretty close to the boardwalk, but it’s hard to get pictures without lots of branches in front. I try to find little “windows” free of branches and wait for the babies to move their heads into them.
The adult birds are easy to photograph, because they go up on top of the bushes and pose. The best time is early morning, when the light of the rising sun illuminates them very nicely. I love the orange highlights on the Cattle Egret.
I hadn’t gone on a “Wood Stork safari” in a few weeks, so when Mike offered us the opportunity to walk over and see a big nest in good morning light, I went to check on the babies. They are so much bigger than they were before! At first they posed quietly for us (and amazingly, everybody looked at the camera!) Then the parents flew in with breakfast:
After a few minutes, the chicks quieted down a bit while they fed their faces.
I checked on the Tricolored Heron nest, where last week the babies were tiny and peeked out from under the mother’s stomach. Now they are big enough to stay in the nest all by themselves. They slept most of the morning, but I kept checking back on them, and finally found them posing:
I couldn’t go to the rookery without checking on “my” Double-Crested Cormorant nest, which I’ve been watching closely ever since I saw a chick hatch over a month ago. The number of chicks has decreased from three to one, so I was somewhat relieved to see my chick still there. Mike told me that he’s been doing some branch-hopping, and today I watched him flapping his wings a lot, as if trying to figure out the whole flying thing. He’s almost as big as his mom, now. He’ll fledge about 35-40 days after birth, and he was born on May 1, so pretty soon he’ll be out on his own.
I didn’t get a picture of the strangest thing that happened today at the rookery. One of the photographers with a super-telephoto lens lost control of his tripod, which started to fall over the side of the boardwalk into the water. We both dove for it and he caught it, but his Better Beamer skidded off his flash and into the water. A split second later, we heard a big splash, and an alligator dove for the Better Beamer. We saw a couple of crunches, then a big gulp–he actually ate it! He’s going to have a stomachache tonight…
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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