Beyond the BackyardPolk Rookery

Father’s Day at the Polk Rookery

Dyeyo and I spent a nice Father’s Day morning with Herman at his rookery in Polk County.  That’s always such a fun place to go.  Herman’s little portable boat is awesome for floating between the islands and observing the birds.

We started the morning with a Least Bittern – what a way to start the day!  He was completely out from under cover, posing beautifully—for just a second!  Then as we turned around in the boat, reached for our cameras, and tried to take his picture, he ducked.  This was the best he let me do.  (As he was hidden in the reeds, I had to choose between the “good beak” and the “good body” shots.  I liked the full body shot because you see his big feet.)  We saw at least two more Least Bitterns fly past throughout the morning.  Now I’m wanting to get back to Viera Wetlands to try for a “good pose”!

Least Bittern

Least Bittern

The activity at the rookery has certainly changed since my first visit, when the birds were primarily constructing their nests, and we had a single set of Great Egret chicks.  Now there are only a few birds on eggs, and there are fledglings everywhere.  Herman has counted at least twelve Roseate Spoonbill fledglings, a record for this rookery.  So cool!

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

The Brown Pelicans that nested at this rookery have done well.  There are a bunch of blue-headed juvenile birds around.  This bird has some white on his head, but also some blue, so I’m thinking he’s a juvenile molting into his adult plumage.   It’s unusual for these birds to nest so far inland.  Hopefully next year I’ll be able to get some pictures of the babies when they are small.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Black-Crowned Night Heron juveniles are all over the Brazilian Pepper in this rookery.  At first Dyeyo was excited to see so many night herons, but after five trips with Herman, he’s taken lots of pictures of them.  He refused to take a single night heron picture today.  I wasn’t that strict with myself.  This guy called my name and begged me to take his picture.  :)

Black-Crowned Night Heron juvenile

Black-Crowned Night Heron juvenile

There are tons of Wood Storks all over the tops of the islands.  They make such a fuss!  After my time at the Alligator Farm and Gatorland, it’s strange for me to visit a rookery where the Great Egrets are not the loudest chicks.  At this rookery, the “loudest” prize seems to be shared between the White Ibis and the Wood Storks.

Wood Stork juveniles

Wood Stork juveniles

Herman likes to back the boat into shade, then try for flight shots up and down one of the main flyways.  Today my best flight shot was of a Wood Stork juvenile.  It’s so funny to watch as the fledglings learn to fly, then they can chase Mom to beg for food.  It seems to be about then that Mom tells them to start searching for food on their own!

Wood Stork in Flight

Wood Stork in Flight

The most novel babies to me are the baby White Ibises.  Today was only my second opportunity to photograph these little guys.  Most of the White Ibises have fledged already, and occasionally small flocks of them fly over the rookery.  But there are still some birds on eggs, and some small babies in nests, if you look in the right places.  Look at the banding on the baby’s beak – Nature is such fun!

White Ibis with Baby

White Ibis with Baby

We had a banded Roseate Spoonbill this morning.  The numbers on his top band seemed to have worn off.  On his bottom band, the numbers were not all clearly visible from one vantage point.  So I was able to see a “5” from the front, and an “8 9” from the back.  Maybe you can identify him from that, Herman?

Roseate Spoonbill band

Roseate Spoonbill band

The rookery season is past its peak, but a morning with the crazy fledglings is always fun.  Thanks again, Herman! :)