I couldn’t take it any more…after seeing picture after picture on the new Alligator Farm Rookery blog, I had to make the trip up to St. Augustine!
My best shot of the morning was this Roseate Spoonbill in flight. He flew into the “sweet spot” of open sky with perfect sun, and the light glistening off his feathers made my jaw drop when I viewed the image in the camera. I love the orange on his tail, too. I’m wondering if that’s a breeding plumage change for them, because I don’t recall seeing it on birds in the wintertime…
There were Spoonies all over the rookery this morning! The big oak tree played host to at least 10 of them. I think the spoonbills outnumbered the Wood Storks in that tree! They slept and slept and slept…I was quite ready for them to wake up and stretch their wings for me. Eventually the Wood Storks ran them off. But not before I got this picture…
Last year was the first year that the Roseate Spoonbills nested at the rookery. This year there are already Spoonies on eggs, with more pairs obviously getting ready to nest. I’m looking forward to getting more pictures of baby spoonbills…
The other major players in the rookery right now are the Great Egrets. They are well into nest-building, and there are already chicks in a few nests. The Wood Storks have moved in and started to nest. It looked like some of the birds were on eggs. I saw Snowy Egrets on eggs as well, and I had a few Tricolored Heron and Cattle Egret fly-bys throughout the morning.
I love the Great Egrets in their breeding colors. Those bright green lores and the lacy feathers are so pretty.
I was trying for a picture with the bird sitting with his lacy feathers all plumed up around him, but I didn’t quite get that shot. Maybe next time. This egret had her feathers a little plumed up as she sat on her nest…
There were two Great Egret nests in particular that I watched on and off all morning. Both nests were under construction, and it was fun to watch the birds as they worked. They mated, then the female sat one the nest while the male went off to gather sticks. It’s not as easy to gather sticks as you might think! For one thing, most sticks in the rookery are attached to live bushes and trees. You have to tug a little to get them free. I watched the birds pick up stick after stick and take them back to the nest, where both birds would carefully position them into the nest. They were so gentle. It was beautiful to watch.
I should have switched to a smaller aperture on this shot, to get the second adult in sharp focus. Look at those green lores!
The Alligator Farm caters to photographers, both with the early entry program, and with the general maintenance of the rookery bushes. They keep the trees trimmed back so that the nests are very visible, and it’s possible to get good backgrounds on a lot of nests. This was the only nest with chicks that I could find, although I think I heard at least one more.
As the sun rose in the sky, I experimented with flight shots. There’s a nice open patch of sky and it’s pretty easy to catch the birds flying back and forth to their nests. This was my favorite Great Egret flight shot of the morning.
Want to learn more about nature photography at Alligator Farm?
Check out my Alligator Farm 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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