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

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Life In The Rookeries

Sure south Florida gets heat and humidity most of the year, except for the occasional cold front during the winter months.  We have winter crowds that are sometimes maddening.  However, we DO have some amazing bird activity going on in the winter/spring season.

Our local rookeries of the wetlands offer the visitor a chance to be educated on courtship behaviors, mating rituals, nest building, and how birds feed and take care of their young.  I love to visit the rookeries often and watch as they progress with each of these stages.  Most times, it’s quite fascinating … though sometimes it’s a bit cruel.  Such is nature.

One of the birds which calls this place home is the great blue heron.  One of the largest birds you find in the nests located in the trees on islands surrounded by water.  They will generally raise 2-3 young, which seem to grow up quickly.  More on that later.
_DSC3902A frequent visitor, quite beautiful especially during the breeding season is the glossy ibis.  As opposed to the regular ibis, this one offers blackish feathers which in the sunlight shine with iridescence and colors._DSC3585We also have pied grebes, which are much smaller than the grebes out west.  During the breeding season, they can be quite striking, though they are always adorable._DSC3671The stealth-like least bittern can be found by the keen observer.  It’s amazing how well they can camouflage themselves in the reeds they live in.  Once in a while, one can be spotted flying in or out of the reeds or making their way from one grouping of reeds to another.  It’s always a special sighting when you’re lucky to see one._DSC3973Courtship displays abound and no bird does it more spectacularly than the great egret.  It’s breeding season plumage is fabulous, as is its dance of attraction.  Hard to see how any female can resist._DSC4321Always the sweethearts of the rookeries are the wood storks.  Easy to see how they get their name, these prehistoric looking storks always seem to be smiling and can be heard when mating from almost anywhere nearby.  They clank their beaks frantically and it sounds like some major damage is being done.  LOL.  These two were dubbed by me to be the lovebirds of Wakodahatchee Wetlands.  🙂_DSC3707Speaking of prehistoric-looking, how about these younger great blue heron siblings?  I just love their “do”… OK, tell me that they don’t look related somehow to Don King?  At least in reference to their hairdo of course.  LOL_DSC3854As I said before, they grow quite fast.  Often left alone while the parents go out for food … EVERBODY knows when the parents return for these two go frantically after them, grabbing their beaks and being quite obnoxious._DSC3881The common morhen, an often overlooked bird, gets at least some attention when their young are born.  I mean, look at those bald-headed, fuzzball little cuties!_DSC3945An invasive species to Florida, though one that is really taking over quickly, is the swamp hen.  Looking like a duller version of a purple gallinule, they still do have cute little ones.  Not everyone is happy with their presence here.  As many other invasives have done, they interfere with the natural food supply and ecosystem._DSC4047Here one of the parents is seen as it retrieves food for its mate and young.  _DSC4132Probably one of the funkiest young ones are the anhinga babies._DSC4194It’s hard to believe that the woodstorks were once threatened birds, but of recent years, they have made an amazing recovery.  Their young are also adorable, with their identifiable long beaks and relatively bald heads.  They grow up amazingly fast as well._DSC4177OK ladies, any takers for this very handsome great egret?  This dance goes on for hours and hours.  Almost makes you feel sorry for the poor guy._DSC4266So let’s hear it for the rookery birds of south Florida.  They sure put on quite the show._DSC3956Next up:  More sandhill cranes as they grow up a bit  🙂

© 2016  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com