This morning was cloudy, breezy, and great for getting outside! The birds at Gatorland’s Bird Rookery took longer to wake up, probably because the sun wasn’t shining as brightly as usual. The rookery was eerily quiet when I first got there, and then the babies started fussing as soon as the sun started to break through the clouds.
As I arrived at the rookery, I saw the fledgling Swallow-tailed Kites in the pine trees near the entrance to the Swamp Walk. They were more intent on preening than posing.
The cloudy skies and diffused light made for some great birdie portrait lighting. This Tricolored Heron fledgling ventured out onto this branch and then watched as other fledglings flew over him.
The trees were covered in fledging Cattle Egrets. If you looked down into the branches, though, there are still plenty of nests under incubation. This baby peeked out at me through a “window” in the leaves.
Nearby, this juvenile Cattle Egret was posing for me. Actually, he thought he was waiting patiently for his mother to return with breakfast (and he got excited anytime a grown Cattle Egret flew overhead!) – but he also posed nicely while he waited!
The next couple of pictures are a little blurrier than I’d like, but they capture the frenzy of neck-bobbing and wing-thrashing involved with feeding juvenile birds. It’s amusing to watch – and you can’t help feeling sorry for the adult birds.
I wish I had used a faster shutter speed to freeze the action, but I guess there is something cool to the motion implied by the blur here. It always surprises me to see the color on the underside of the baby wings.
There were two Limpkins hanging out in the rookery trees this morning. I waited for a long time for one to stop preening,, but he just didn’t want to pose for me. I contented myself with this head shot.
A juvenile common grackle made me laugh as he followed his father around, flapping his wings around to beg for food. His feathers are getting darker as he molts into his adult plumage, and you get the impression by watching him that he should be fully capable of feeding himself. I guess his dad thought so, too, because his dad kept flying off, leaving the juvenile to feast on these berries all by himself.
I noticed many smaller newer voices as I walked under the covered portion of the boardwalk near the South Gazebo. I looked up to see this parent and baby pair of Boat-tailed Grackles leaving the cover of the boardwalk to go hop around in the branches of the nearby trees. Then they hopped over to the boardwalk railing, where they posed for my camera.
The juvenile bird’s eyes are not quite as bright as the adult, and the feathers don’t have quite the same sheen.
Everywhere you turn around, you see fledging Tricolored Herons. This guy was particularly animated as he tried to get his parent’s attention.
It’s hard to tell who is who with the juvenile Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, and Little Blue Herons. Especially since some of the cattle egrets’ beaks have already started to change color into their adult orange. These two juveniles were side-by-side in their nest.
I would have thought that this Tricolored Heron’s mother taught him not to stick his tongue out at the nice guests at Gatorland…
I’ve been watching a Tricolored Heron incubate her nest at the base of the Observation Tower for the past few weeks. Finally today she had three tiny chicks in her nest. She spent most of the morning incubating them and sleeping. I finally caught her up and feeding the babies on my third pass by the nest. Two of the babies grabbed the same fish and fought amongst themselves to decide who got to keep it.
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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