Winter in the Wetlands

Let me paint the scene for you … it’s a beautiful winter day in Florida … the air is cool (by Florida standards) and the birds are getting frisky.  Florida has many wetland areas with quite the variety of birds congregate for the breeding season in the rookeries.  There’s always action of some type going on.

One of my favorite wading birds ever is the snowy egret.  From the time that I first heard them calling out … to witnessing their spunky attitude around others … I was hooked.  So if I know they’re around, I visit with them first.  On this day, this lone snowy egret was flying about as it fished in what was obviously its favorite spot, since it did a great job of chasing all other birds away from that area.DSC_0496With their angelic white feathers, they seem to have every single one in place as they gracefully fly by … and execute the perfect drag of the feet along the surface of the water while fishing.  On this day, the wind was calm, so it was double beauty to me.DSC_0311Speaking of doubles … check out these two cuties.  A pair of pied-billed grebes, sporting breeding fashion, swam nearby … also providing for reflective images.  I guess this would be a quad sighting then, right?  LOLDSC_0525The red-winged blackbirds make their presence known by their song first, then they come over to check us out, with this male showing off the gorgeous red-toned shoulder decorations.  Always a joy to encounter.DSC_0685-EditTrying to be inconspicuous, but discovered anyways, is the black-crowned night heron.  Hard to miss with that fabulous red eye they obtain at maturity.DSC_0466The green heron scouts out the waters edge along the vegetation also looking for dinner.  They are extremely patient hunters and quite beautiful when in full breeding colors, which this one has not yet obtained.DSC_0921-EditWhile some birds are looking to settle down, some are simply migrating through, like this beautiful black & white warbler.  I normally don’t photograph warblers (they’re way too fast for me), this one gave me a chance by being out in the open.DSC_0800-EditAnother fun sighting was the always beautiful downy woodpecker, the smallest of the woodpeckers in North America.DSC_0765However, most of the birds are effectively utilizing the resources of the rookery by gathering up nesting material for their homes where they will take care of their young.  The most elegant nesters of the wetland rookeries is hands down the great blue herons.  They execute their flight patterns with grace and beauty and seem to always return with just the right stick for the lady of the nest.DSC_1827-EditFeathers are amazing at this time of year … like a well conducted orchestra, each does its designed job in flight with precision.DSC_1808-EditWhen the snowy egret aren’t around, the cattle egret take over the feisty behavior on the islands.  Since they usually take the interior real estate of the trees, they get into many confrontations with the other birds, on their way to and from their nests.  Normally seen as “just a white bird” any other time of year, with their breeding plumage and colors, they are quite impressive during breeding season.DSC_1372They are also quite beautiful inflight as they preform their nest building and reinforcement duties as well.DSC_1425How fun they are too.  I mean, look at the attitude exuding from this one?  LOLDSC_1767-Edit-EditOf course, the best dancer of the lot is the great egret.  His dance is so rhythmic and flowing, I don’t see how any female great egret lady can resist his flirtations.  😉DSC_2046-EditYep, he certainly knows how to “work it” for sure.DSC_2024-EditWhile the previous great egret was still searching for his perfect someone, this one was working on keeping his lady happy with new sticks for its nest.DSC_1210-EditYep, I think she approved, as they began to preen each other at the nest.DSC_1178Well, I hope that I provided everyone with a bit of a snapshot of what the Florida wetlands rookeries are like in the winter … full of color, action, displays, and lots of beautiful plumage.

This last parting shot was actually taken by Tom, my hubby and normally my sherpa and wildlife spotter.  Wish that he would take more images as well routinely … I think he does a great job as well.  What do you think?_DSC5330-EditNext Up:  Sunrise photography and a bit more  🙂

© 2017  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com

Spring Transformations

Florida has many natural rookeries and they get quite active in the spring for the breeding season.  Generally speaking, I spend several months visiting them on a regular basis and it’s amazing to watch their colors emerge, their courtship dances, their cooperative nest building, and raising of their young.

The tri-colored heron undergoes quite the transformation with regards to their breeding plumage.
_DSC4346Talk about having a bit of spunk ….  🙂_DSC4766Their young are quite silly looking too … but so ugly, they’re cute.DSC_0425Probably the most prolific of all of the birds breeding in the rookery are the wood storks.  Funny, but not that long ago they were considered to be somewhat threatened as a species, however, there doesn’t seem to be any shortage now._DSC4796_DSC4369As the babies grow older, they get larger quite fast as well._DSC4615_DSC4635Such white fluff balls, they are also so adorable, with their big beaks.  Only when they’re fully grown will they get their trademark wood-like neck and hairless head and dark beak. I have always been fascinated by wood storks.DSC_0063Cattle egret, any other season, are often referred to as “white birds”, but during breeding season, their turn so beautiful … and colorful too._DSC4502Some young birds get fed scraps of food into their nest or fed directly from their parents piece by piece.  Others, like the anhinga, feed their young partially digested food.  As often as I have seen this, it never ceases to amaze me._DSC4527Great blue heron chicks grow into little “mini-me”s.  Love their crazy looking hair.  LOL_DSC4834These sibling are quite animated with each other and also quite aggressive with the parent that comes back to feed them._DSC4788Though I never got to see the chicks from the little blue herons hatch, it was exciting to see them mating, nest building, and tending to their eggs._DSC4696Swamphen are an invasive species, but nonetheless have been increasing in numbers in recent years.  This year I was able to see them raise a few chicks.DSC_0206DSC_0368Black-necked stilts are amazingly beautiful birds.  In breeding plumage they get very red eyes and legs as well.  Courtship and mating are fascinating to observe._DSC4720_DSC4739After mating, the male will drape his wing over the female and they cross bills.  Is that not amazing?  Such rituals … so sweet._DSC4745They together build a nest in the water and when the eggs are laid, they take turns sitting on them, turning them frequently.DSC_0563Yes, the rookery is always a fun and interesting place to spend time.  You never know that you’re going to get.  Though sometimes nature can be tough, when it’s going well, it sure is beautiful to observe and of course, photograph.  🙂DSC_0610

Next up:  Some old friends return … eastern screech owls  🙂

© 2016  TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com