After a sunrise with the Least Terns, Michael and I headed up to the Alligator Farm for another few hours of photographing. For once I was happy that it was cloudy. It kept the temperature cooler and let me take shots that are usually very backlit in the mornings.
The rookery is definitely starting to wind down. A lot of the birds have fledged, although there are still plenty of chicks and branch-hopping juveniles. I’ve been watching a couple of Roseate Spoonbill nests over the spring, and a lot of those juveniles weren’t around today. I guess they’ve moved on to bigger and better places. I’ve been trying for a juvenile Spoonie headshot all season, but usually the fledglings are buried in a tree (smart birds – there’s shade in there!) Today a fledgling was posing for us with just a little bit of sun peeking up behind him. I used slightly stronger flash than usual. I was ok with the result, but it’s not the picture that I envisioned…
Michael and I must have spent half our time at the rookery watching this one nest of Tricolored Herons. There was one tiny chick, so ugly that he was adorable. Those little guys really look like they are having a bad hair day when they are first born! This chick was probably less than a day old. If you look carefully, there’s a pip in the egg next to him – his little brother was trying to come out! There’s a tiny beak trying to poke through that hole in the egg.
I took the above picture with my 70-200mm lens. After Mom turned the egg (hiding the hole from us…silly bird!) and then proceeded to sit on the nest, I experimented with The Beast and my extension tubes. I had to stack all three tubes in order to focus on the nest in front of me. When Mom stood up again, I was able to get a full frame view of the baby, but I think I lost too much light in the process. I was hoping that the egg would start to hatch as we watched, but we ran out of patience (and it was getting hot!) By the time we left, there were holes in both eggs, but just the one chick. I’m sure by now there are three scrawny little guys wiggling around in that nest.
I’m not allowed to go to the Alligator Farm without taking at least one good turtle picture for Rich. I guess that’s fair compensation for my Beast, hehe. The Galapagos tortoises are huge!
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!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!