Growing Up In The Florida Wetlands

The spring season is an exciting one in the wetlands of Florida.  The natural rookeries that develop in the trees on the various “islands” of the wetlands, which are actually re-claimed waters, which supports the growth of trees, fish, and for the photographer, a wonderful place to watch the life stages of many of our south Florida birds.  So, sit back, take a stretch to unwind and take in some of the sights of spring.  🙂

Always present and anticipated with excitement are the great egrets.  These babies are absolutely adorable!DSC_4477-EditThough they start out pretty small and gangly, with a face that only a mother could love.DSC_5518You’ve got to love that ‘do that they possess.  Barely opening their eyes and with wobbly heads they try to sit up whenever the parent shifts a bit in the nest.  They get quite frantic as well when they know that food has arrived.DSC_5197Before long, they begin to grow up and look like they’re an established part of the family.  They seem to be quite excited when they’re in the company of both of their proud and loving parents.DSC_4621Life in the rookery has quite crowded quarters too.  Often, little squirmishes erupt and defensive moves result … for each wants to defend their territory, nest, and of course, their young.  Birds can be quite nasty to each other so it’s quite a testy time.DSC_4638Another bird that nested this year in the rookery was the glossy ibis.  They are quite beautiful always, but especially in the spring.DSC_5380The parents take turns sitting on the nest and bringing in food to one another.  As you can see, their nests are lower to the water, therefore it’s often not the cleanest of them all.  Yuck!DSC_5621Nonetheless, they are successful in their mating season and they carry on with the feeding of their first hatched baby, while still incubating the remaining eggs.DSC_5813The most prolific birds of 2017 were the wood storks … they were seemingly the first and they were EVERYWHERE!  They have the cutest young ones too … so oddly looking, but with that fuzzy white head, it’s hard not to love them.DSC_5570The white ibis, which is coincidentally the mascot of  the University of Miami Hurricanes, is another visitor, though I don’t think that I saw many nests this year.  They’re so beautiful in their breeding colors.DSC_6038As juveniles, they are not white, but darker or mottled until they reach maturity.DSC_6021A similar transformation takes place with the little blue heron.  As adults, they possess dark bluish-gray feathers, however as juveniles, they’re white.  As they age, they get mottled and eventually obtain their adult colors.DSC_5293Even while most of the rookery residents are already parents and taking care of their young, some birds, like this tri-colored heron are still looking for mates.DSC_5213With those fancy feather crests, beautiful blue beak, and red eye, they do their best courtship dance to attract the ladies.DSC_5233They are truly gorgeous in the breeding plumage.DSC_5866-EditMating season is not just for the birds either … the alligators seem to be in the mood as well.DSC_5122DSC_5126Alligators aren’t the only reptiles in the rookery environment.  Case in point is the basilisk lizard, also know as a Jesus lizard, notably because of its ability to run on the surface of the water.  It’s really quite fascinating to witness.DSC_4795-EditDSC_4807One of the most beautiful birds in the rookery, in my opinion, is the purple gallinule.  A medium-sized, chicken-like, marsh bird, its iridescent colors and its acrobatic skills are a thrill for all to witness.DSC_5909-EditSome confuse the purple gallinule with a more invasive, non-native bird, the swamphen, but their beaks definitely tell the story … with the gallinule’s beak being blue, red, and yellow … like a piece of candy corn.  LOLDSC_4907The gallinule prefers to feed actively on flowers and navigates the stalks of the vegetation that the flowers bloom from.DSC_5986Possessing those large bright yellow feet, they wrap their long feet or “toes” around the stalks ….DSC_5842… and they follow the stalk down to the bloom, often it leads to the waters surface … and they grab the bloom as a tasty treat.DSC_5058Of course, the always gregarious red-winged blackbird is ever-present as well.  I found this guy in a unique spot … sitting in the middle of a lily pad … singing away.  Loved that reflection on the surface of the water too.  🙂  Yes, the life in the rookery is alive and well.  Birds are thriving and insuring another generation to carry on.  Life is good!DSC_5448Next Up:  Who wants some burrowing owls?

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

A New Bird Generation At Work :-)

Returning to the habitat known as Wakodahatchee Wetlands in Delray Beach, the birds continually evolve in their spring behavior of courting, mating, nesting, and rearing of their young ones.

Not all babies have been born yet at this time, as this black-neck stilt can attest to … though it shouldn’t be long for they have been at it for some time already.

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Other birds, such as the black-bellied whistling ducks, pass over the wetlands repeatedly, each time making their presence known.  They usually fly in flocks in varying numbers, but no matter the number, the listener can understand quickly how they got their name.  They have the distinctive sound of very loud whistling as they are within the area.  I personally can’t stop laughing when I hear it.

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Of course, they’re just as silly looking when they tidy up a bit with a nice refreshing bath.

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Yes, the birds are seemingly everywhere and it never ceases to amaze how incredibly protective and possessive they get in the spring.

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I think that every time I visited to Wako, I witnessed an attack of a red-shouldered hawk who was either innocently passing through or looking for a quick delicacy.  This one got double-teamed – a stilt and red-winged backbird were both on its tail … literally!

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The babies that were first born grew up so fast too and have their own version of sibling squabbles going on.

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I have to say that these great blue heron parents are quite patient with their attention-needy, beak-grabbing, little ones.  LOL

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The tri-colored herons always remind me of little prehistoric guys with those faces that only a mother can love.  Look how excited they get when she returns!  LOL

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Now we all know how baby birds often get fed, but come on, this looks quite painful!  How they manage to stay upright in the trees as they jerk around, almost violently, being fed.  It’s really amazing to watch.

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Probably the most fascinating to watch as they grew up were the wood storks.  Speaking of prehistoric looking, these birds take the prize in that category.  I personally though find them beautiful … I know, in their own way.  They start off so tiny, but before long, grew up quite fast.

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Are they just not the cutest????

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So goes it at the natural rookery of Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  Like most places in nature, you just never know what you’re going to get when you go there, but it’s always something interesting and often, heart-warming.

Next up on the blog:  Speaking of the unexpected … check out who spent some time for a visit!

© 2015  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography