The nesting season at Gatorland’s Rookery is starting to come to a close. While there are still nests under incubation, and some nests have tiny babies, the majority of the babies have fledged, and they spend their time hopping around in the tops of the tallest trees they can find.
The rookery was strangely quiet this morning as the sun rose. I guess the fledglings are starting to figure out how to feed themselves, and they don’t have to fuss for food as much.
The majority of the Wood Storks have left the rookery, and you can see them teaching their babies to fish in the south pond by the Papyrus Islands. This was one of the few storks who hung out in the rookery this morning:
A bunch of the adult birds have started to molt. You can see the feathers in their faces are getting thinner, and in the case of this Cattle Egret, it looks like her face is really dirty.
This Great Egret juvenile fussed his little head off every time his parent came by. I think the parent was trying to encourage the bird to branch-hop, as the parent kept hopping farther away, trying to get the baby to follow to feed. The baby wasn’t so sure about that, and there was much wing-flapping involved as he begged for breakfast.
There were tiny babies in one Tricolored Heron nest, and I glimpsed them just before Mommy sat back down to brood them. I liked this quick shot of both babies peeking out from under Mama:
The alligators kept splashing unexpectedly, disconcerting the photographers and some of the birds. One of the alligators grabbed at the branches of the tree containing the Tricolored Heron nest. For a second I thought the mother had fallen, but then I spied her a couple of feet away from the nest. Good – the babies need their mother!
There are still plenty of small chicks, but the chicks aren’t doing as well as they did earlier in the nesting season. Early Tricolored clutches typically had about four eggs, and often you saw all four fledge. These days you see maybe two chicks in each nest. I’ve seen several nests near the South Gazebo abandoned in the past few weeks. I guess it is awfully hot, and the afternoon thunderstorms can’t be good for the birds.
There is another nest of Tricolored Herons at the base of the Observation Tower. They are about a week older than the babies above. Today they posed nicely, but it was hard to illuminate them evenly with flash.
I noticed flocks of birds flying in and out of the palm trees, and finally got a decent glimpse of them to see that they were European Starlings. Later one of the babies was feeding off some berries in the bushes right above me. I’ve never seen a juvenile European Starling before. At first I thought they were grackles!
The Rookery is only open for early hours for another two weekends. Maybe next spring, some of this year’s babies will be the parents. I’m looking forward to getting birds-in-flight pictures of the parents with nesting materials.
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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