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

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