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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Spring Is In The Air

Spring doesn’t officially arrive until March 20th … or so the calendar say.  Try telling that in the midst of winter to the birds of Florida.  They’re already out and about in the Florida sunshine!DSC_0061Whether it be the beautifully irridescent purple gallinule foraging about in the flowering plants or the yellow-rumped warbler darting in and out of the trees, there’s always something going on.  _DSC9057-2While some of the birding activity involves migratory birds just passing through or here for a brief stay, many of them are residents.  Such is the case of the great egret, seen here in full courtship display.  That plumage is amazing to witness that’s for sure.  Like it placed a foot on a magnetic ball and static electricity resulted … plumage standing up in every conceivable direction._DSC5262-EditSome birds, such as the double-crested cormorant, while they sport colors that pop out during breeding season, their display is one more in the dance or rhythmic movement.  It’s truly hard to miss._DSC8767One of the more popular birds to observe during this time is the great blue heron.  Probably due to its beauty, grace in flight, and dedication they possess and exhibit.  Of course, their size makes them an easy target for your eyes as well.  Standing high on the tops of the pine trees, this guy prepares for flight in search of more nesting material._DSC8349_DSC8350After some preliminary flapping, we have lift-off!  No other bird in my opinion executes such full extension of its body as the great blue heron.
_DSC8377Before long, it returns with the perfect stick._DSC8453As it prepares for its landing, I get a topside (or is it backside?) view … love the variety of feathers it possess, each with a role in the perfect landing.  🙂DSC_0115Landing light as a feather at the nest, it greets its mate with the presentation of the chosen stick for the job.  She examines it and accepts it from her mate and they together place it in the nest._DSC8416I think that she liked it!  They celebrate their union and their love, as well as their young ones to come soon._DSC8566Other birds of the rookery are doing the same thing as well, such as the ever-present wood storks.DSC_0083-Edit-EditSome birds do it quite quickly, while others seem to use the task time to take a break along the way.  Isn’t that just like a man?  LOL, sorry guys, couldn’t let that one pass by.  This anhinga rests for a moment before it grabs a sprig of pine needles to return with.  I just love their breeding colors and plumage as well.  Like a skilled make-up artist and hair stylist just paid a visit.  🙂DSC_0180-EditWhile some birds, even of the same breed are still preparing their nests and choosing their mates, some got an earlier start and are already raising their young.  This great blue heron parent returned to the nest, with fish dinner in tow (stored in its throat), to an anxious young one._DSC8865At first, the young one just makes their “request” (i.e. FEED ME!) known politely.  If the parent doesn’t oblige in a timely manner, the young one takes matters in its own hands, or should I say beak!  If you look closely, you can see the parent trying to share that fresh catch._DSC8916As often as I’ve seen this rough feeding routine play out before my eyes, I always wonder if the parents absolutely dread coming back to hte nest to take this kind of abuse!  Haha.  Sometimes, the parents walk away, almost as if to teach their young a lesson.  As you can see, the young one uses that moment to throw an utter temper tantrum … yet learns to use their wings a bit in the process._DSC9016Of course, nothing sounds as sweet as the flocks of black-bellied whistling ducks as they fly overhead.  Love their calling out melody.DSC_0063Next up:  Let’s all go to the Everglades!

© 2017  Debbie Tubridy / TNWA Photography

http://www.tnwaphotography.com