Beyond the BackyardOther Places

Venice Rookery

I’ve been wanting to visit the Venice Rookery for years.  It’s known for Great Blue Heron courtship photographs.  I love photographing the Great Blue Herons at Viera Wetlands, but the nests are high on the tops of trees and the backgrounds are blue sky.  At the Venice Rookery, the nests are eye-level and they have green foliage in the backgrounds.  From what I’ve read, years ago there was more foliage, but it was removed because it was invasive Brazilian pepper.  It was replaced with native plants.  Now you can see the mobile homes in the background, but with good placement of your tripod, you can still get good green backgrounds…

Great Blue Heron Courtship Stretch
Great Blue Heron Courtship Stretch

There are half a dozen Great Blue Heron nests at the rookery already.  They nest earlier down south than they do at Gatorland or the Alligator Farm.  Several herons were on eggs already.  There were also a few pairs of Great Egrets that were nesting.  I love watching them in their lacy breeding plumage.

Great Egret in Breeding Plumage
Great Egret in Breeding Plumage

This particular nest site was being eyed by both the Great Blue Herons and the Great Egrets.  The birds alternated every half hour or so.  They gave the many photographers ample flight shot opportunities with incoming nesting material.  My favorite shots were the courtship behaviors, though.  The Great Egret will bend, thrust his head into the air, then bend back down again.  It’s hard to catch because it’s so fast.  I caught the tail end (pun intended)…

Great Egret Breeding Lace
Great Egret Breeding Lace

One of my best shots of the morning was a Double-crested Cormorant, who surfaced with a  huge catfish.  He shook it around repeatedly.  In most of my shots, the fish covered his face.  In this shot, you can see his eyes staring down the camera as he gets his breakfast ready.  A few seconds later, he executed the final gulp.  Not a good day to be a fish!

Double-crested Cormorant with Fish
Double-crested Cormorant with Fish

I was really glad I’d finally made the trip down to Venice.  The rookery is just over a two hour drive from the west side of Orlando.  It was surprisingly small compared to the Gatorland and St. Augustine rookeries.  I don’t know that I’ll be returning this year, but I will probably plan a return visit for next Christmas break, trying to catch more Great Blue Heron courtship behaviors before they go on eggs.