Beyond the BackyardPolk Rookery

Spoon-Feeding at the Polk Rookery

Herman took my dad and me out in his boat again this morning.  The Polk Rookery has changed considerably since my last visit in March.  Then the birds were building their nests, and Great Egrets, Wood Storks dominated the Brazilian Pepper.  Today the rookery was filled with fledgling birds of all sorts: Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Black-Crowned Night Herons, White Ibis, Brown Pelicans, Anhingas, Double-Crested Cormorants, and don’t forget the grackles!  There was constant action in every direction.  A photographer’s paradise!  :)

My favorites of the morning were the Roseate Spoonbills.  There were at least seven nests, if I remember correctly, with several fledglings per nest.  It was breakfast time and we had such fun watching the head-bobbing as the babies begged for food!

Roseate Spoonbill baby feeding time

Roseate Spoonbill baby feeding time

The poor parents were accosted by screaming babies each time they flew back to their nests.  I had to laugh when I realized I’d gotten this shot of the frazzled mother:

Roseate Spoonbill flees nest

Roseate Spoonbill flees nest

A Spoonie flew overhead and landed in a nearby tree, closely followed by one of her offspring.  He seemed to say to her, “Ha!  Now I can fly!  You can’t get away from me anymore…now feed me already!”  She obliged, then flew off, giving us this flight shot opportunity:

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

When I visited in March, the White Ibis were just beginning to move into the rookery.  They had bright red beaks (their mating plumage) and they were starting to select their nest locations.  Fast forward two months, and today there were dozens of White Ibis fledglings hopping around in the trees.  They sure do grow up quickly!  I love the striped beaks of the babies, which have already started to fade in these fledglings.

White Ibis fledglings

White Ibis fledglings

The juvenile Ibises were harassing their parents for food just as much as the spoonies…

White Ibis young demand food

White Ibis young demand food

I was surprised to still see so many White Ibis in breeding colors, as most of the other species have already lost their bright colors.  This guy flew by and Herman explained that “he’s” actually a “she” – you can distinguish the females by the little pouches they have under their chins.

White Ibis

White Ibis

Dyeyo was in Black-Crowned Night Heron paradise…and even after stating that he wasn’t going to take any more night heron pictures, because he has so many, he was seen snapping away!  It’s hard not to.  They are pretty birds and I love the “bad hair day” look of the youngest fledglings…

Black-Crowned Night Heron chick

Black-Crowned Night Heron chick

There weren’t as many Black-Crowned Night Heron adults this trip, but all you need is one to pose out on an open branch in good light to make a boatload of photographers very happy…

Black-Crowned Night Heron

Black-Crowned Night Heron

I missed the “tiny baby” stage for the Brown Pelicans.  It’s fairly uncommon for the pelicans to nest this far inland, so Herman is watching the nesting with interest.  The picture below is of a juvenile, distinguished from his adult parents by his lack of white head.

Brown Pelican juvenile

Brown Pelican juvenile

We saw the Great Egrets that were tiny babies in March, now grown into adult-sized fledglings.  They haven’t figured out how to feed themselves yet, though.  We watched as Mama fed them, and then after she left, they continued to search for leftover morsels in each others’ mouths.  Their antics are hilarious, and I still haven’t figured out how so many chicks fledge without two punctured eyes!

Great Egret fledglings

Great Egret fledglings

I spotted a nest of fairly young Anhingas, and Herman took us closer so that I could get a better look.  It’s unusual to be able to get this close to wild birds!  In another nest, this fledgling bird was starting to branch-hop.  His mom was on the branch above his nest, and he didn’t want to wait patiently in the nest with his siblings for their next feeding.  So he scrambled up the bush, trying his hardest to reach his mom.  Dyeyo laughed at him, telling him that he was going to get high enough that he wouldn’t know how to get back to his nest!

Anhinga juvenile

Anhinga juvenile

There won’t be any shortages of Wood Storks if this rookery is any indication of the overall population.  They were all over!  The babies are much cuter than the adults.  Their nests are at the tops of the Brazilian Pepper, making portraits with clean backgrounds a much easier task.  I dialed in negative exposure compensation here to keep from burning the whites, and I was rewarded with a nice deep blue background that contrasts nicely with their faces:

Wood Stork chicks

Wood Stork chicks

I think Wood Storks hatch asynchronously, which would explain the difference in age between these guys.  They were cute, perked up in their nest.

Wood Stork chicks

Wood Stork chicks

I had to laugh when I realized that I’d snapped this picture of an incoming Cattle Egret.  Look at those pointed toes!  He should have been a ballerina…

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

So it was a great morning.  Thanks again, Herman!! :)