Chicks Growing Like Weeds

The large wading bird chicks grow fast. It seems like the Great Egret chicks are doing so at a faster rate than the Great Blue Herons but it’s hard to know for sure.

I took these sets of photos just 13 days apart. In the first photo of the Great Egrets the second chick is beak wrestling with the adult.

Great Egret and Chick
Great Egret and Chick – click photo for larger view

By the time of the second photo there isn’t much room for the adult in this tree side nest any more. The adults perch on side branches and stretch in with food.

Two Great Egret Chicks
Two Great Egret Chicks – click photo for larger view

In the top nest of this tree, the Great Blue Heron chick was upright but not very steady on April 15th.

Great Blue Heron and Chick
Great Blue Heron and Chick – click photo for larger view

On the 28th you can see his growth progress using the tree as a marker, much like a child’s doorway growth chart.

Great Blue Heron Chick – click photo for larger view

For perspective, here is the whole tree from the end of the pond taken April 28th. The Great Blue Heron nest is at the top left, there is a Great Egret nest with three chicks in the middle, and the Great Egret nest with the two chicks shown above is at the bottom. The greenery keeps the nest with three chicks from view from the side of the pond.

Tree with three nests
Tree with three nests – click photo for larger view

You can also see two ramps, the closer one has an Alligator peeking over the top and the further one has at least two gators draped on it. The further ramp is the one featured yesterday where the duckling escapade took place.

A Duck Tale

Mother Wood Duck and seven ducklings climbed onto the Alligator ramp for some grooming and rest.

Wood Duck with Ducklings
Wood Duck with Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

Drowsy, without a care in the world, after a bit everyone settled down and Mom stood watch. I thought these ducks were taking a risk: they don’t call it an Alligator platform for nothing!

Wood Duck with Ducklings
Wood Duck with Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

Dad patrolled the waters.

Look carefully to the left of the Drake and you will see an Alligator body part is sticking out of the water just a smidge. I didn’t see this until I was developing these photos.

Wood Duck with Alligator Lurking
Wood Duck with Alligator Lurking – click on photo for larger view

I did suspect that something was about to happen because the Drake let out a squawk, reversed course and paddled away.

Wood Duck with Ducklings
Wood Duck with Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

Mama also sensed something was wrong.

Wood Duck with Ducklings
Wood Duck with Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

I missed them exit from the platform but those ducklings were just about running on the water to get out of there.

Wood Duck Ducklings
Wood Duck Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

When I glanced back the platform had a new occupant.

Alligator
Alligator – click on photo for larger view

The ducklings and mom disappeared towards the other side of the pond, with a tale of survival, this time.

 

Wood Duck Ducklings
Wood Duck Ducklings – click on photo for larger view

A Dash of Color

Iris in all sorts of colors are thriving around the swamp where I photograph the wading birds. This is some distance from the cultivated gardens and I’ve wondered if they were planted intentionally or just happened via a happy accident. Regardless, its a nice surprise to happen upon them.

Purple iris
White iris with yellow accent
Deep purple iris with yellow accent
Iris with cob web strands

Great Egrets Going About Their Day

The Great Egrets are in different stages of reproducing around the rookery, from fancy courting to feeding chicks.

Great Egrets in Tree
Great Egret Fan Dancing in Tree – click photo for larger view

This set of three nests arranged like stepped condos always has something going on.

Great Egrets in Tree
Great Egrets in Tree – click photo for larger view

A little later on the male took a loop around the tree on his way for more sticks for his mate. The Great Egrets regularly rob each others’ nests of sticks and some fall out so it is an ongoing job. The adult at the nest likes to have something to poke around, too.

Great Egret Fly By
Great Egret Fly By – click photo for larger view

Further down the pond a pair of Great Egret chicks were getting a meal. This nest is away from the trail and harder to see but it sure looks like the chicks don’t have much holding them in.

Great Egret Feeding Chicks
Great Egret Feeding Chicks  – click photo for larger view

 

Ardea alba.

Black-necked Stilt

It’s easy to see how this bird got its name. The Black-necked Stilt is a shore bird that has thin and delicate legs, giving the it an awkward looking walk.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt – click image for larger view

This was my first sighting of a Stilt and I was quite impressed with his colors and precise movements.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt – click image for larger view

He went back and forth along the edge of the tidal water, poking and prodding as he went.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt  – click image for larger view

Even more striking when flying, I saw several groups of two and three zipping by without getting an in flight shot. This take off shot and shadow will have do for today.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt – click image for larger view

This turned out to be just a short hop to a new lunch spot.

Black-necked Stilt
Black-necked Stilt – click image for larger view

Himantopus mexicanus

 

Serious Food Gathering

Unlike my post yesterday of a Great Blue Heron on a casual lunch stroll, this GBH was on a serious mission. Likely providing for chicks at a nearby nest, he needed to secure a more substantial meal.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

The  greenery he is standing on is not solid ground, but a floating patch of thatched weeds and cat tails with who knows what crawling around in it.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – click photo for a larger view

With great precision the GBH found a mudpuppy, probably in search of his own lunch.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – click photo for a larger view

The Heron threw him down onto the thatch a couple of times, perhaps to rinse off toxins as well as helping incapacitate the amphibian.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – click photo for a larger view

This wrestling went on for quite awhile and there were a couple of stabs involved. Suffice it to say the Heron won and I skipped the gory pictures.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – click photo for a larger view

A few gulps and the whole thing went down the Heron’s throat. I didn’t see where he went after he took off but I have seen the adults land in the nest and regurgitate food that looked like it could have been from a similar acquisition.

Walk, Snack, Walk

On a casual afternoon stroll around the edge of the pond, this Great Blue Heron wasn’t paying much attention to what was beneath the water’s surface.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron wading around pond – click on photo for larger view

Or so I thought! Snatch and he had speared a small fish which went down in one gulp.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron with fish  – click on photo for larger view

Then on about his stroll. He’s likely made this circuit before and knew he wouldn’t be in over his head, but he still didn’t seem to be watching the water.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron wading around pond – click on photo for larger view

The reflection was perfect from my angle and I wonder if the wading birds see themselves looking back?

Black-crowned Night-Heron Maneuvers

The Black-crowned Night-Herons have spread their nests around the rookery after spending a few weeks where I had spotted them last month. This may be to reduce the squabbling, which they are good at.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Click photo for larger view

Getting into their nests after an outing is a challenge. They circle around the islands looking for a good landing spot.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron  – Click photo for larger view

The landing sequence is typical of the other wading birds, generally looking like they might crash.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Click photo for larger view

Unlike the Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons I have been watching, moments after they land they disappear into the shrubbery, often by hopping down a branch.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Click photo for larger view

Like the Great Egrets, they continue to bring sticks to the nest. Because of the nest locations we may never see chicks until they are flying.

Black-crowned Night-Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron – Click photo for larger view