Another sunny afternoon, another trip to Orlando Wetlands Park! I knew the Roseate Spoonbills had been nesting long enough that it might be time to find small pink spoons in the nest. I wasn’t wrong. Come with me to count beaks!
It started out as a typical day on the boardwalk. The Wood Storks were active bringing in nesting material. It sometimes surprises people to find out that nest-building is a continuous operation. The birds constantly replenish the nest with new sticks.
A Red-bellied Woodpecker flew in. He was in the market for a new nest hole. He found several potential properties in the palm trees by the boardwalk. It would be fun to come back and see little heads sticking out the front door!
A Great Egret posed nearby. The Great Egrets are one of the first wading birds to breed in the spring. As such, even in early March, their beautiful green lores begin to disappear.
Then the sounds got interesting. The Great Egret chicks fuss with a sound like “nah-nah-nah.” The Roseate Spoonbill chicks have more of a wheezing sound. As the sun lowered in the sky, the babies got more active, and soon I located the nest with the chicks. It was buried deep in a palm tree with very little visibility. I pulled out my 2x teleconverter and did my best.
How many beaks do you see? At first it looked like Mom and two babies. Then the third chick poked up. Whenever Mom’s beak came down, the babies went crazy, all vying to be the lucky winner of the regurgitated meal.
Surprise! A fourth baby, much smaller than its siblings, made a brief appearance. The variation in size of the chicks makes it clear that they hatch asynchronously. At this age, their beaks are orange and rounded. They begin to acquire a spoon-like appearance after a few weeks.
This was one of those moments when a picture is worth a thousand words. My favorite part was when the tiniest baby did a beak nuzzle with Mom!
It would have been easy to spend the whole afternoon with these fun birds, but other babies started to attract my attention. The Great Egret chicks that I saw on my last visit had grown, and were demanding food from Mom. With such demanding youngsters, Mom was ready for a nap!
All too soon the sun started to set. The golden light on this Roseate Spoonbill in full breeding colors was beautiful.
I put on my wide-angle lens for the walk back to my car. Last time I caught the sun setting through the cypress trees. This afternoon I preferred to capture the wider-angle shot of the whole wetlands landscape. What a special place!
There’s always one bird that bids you farewell and encourages you to return. On this particular visit, it was the anhinga posed on a tree stump in the setting sun. A great silhouette to end a fun afternoon!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Orlando Wetlands?
Check out my Orlando Wetlands 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!