This group of wading birds was moving down the impoundment as a pack, presumably following the fish.
Many of the Roseate Spoonbills broke off on their own, preferring to feed in smaller groups or maybe needing shallower water. This older Spoonbill, identifiable by the darker pink on his wings, gets points for the big “swoosh” of water.
Setting up for the landing with uneven feet is awkward, but he pulled it off,
A near miss, this elegant landing scores extra for not disturbing his neighbor and for carrying a blade of marsh grass on his beak through the flight.
We found the mother lode today. Of wading birds, that is. A state managed wildlife area near us controls the water depth in these impoundments to “provide quality habitat” for various bird species. Some days you go here and see nothing. Today was nothing short of amazing.
At this time of year the water is kept low in various spots and the wading birds get access to an ample supply of easily obtainable food. There were so many birds it was hard to get a good shot of the group. In addition to those seen here Roseate Spoonbills, Tri-color Heron, Skimmers, and Great Blue Heron were well represented and all mixed in together.
Over the course of the three hours we watched this morning groups moved around to various areas of the pond or left, perhaps full and looking for a cooler spot to spend the rest of the day.
The juvenile Little Blue Herons are spreading out away from their nests and just when one thinks he has found his own piece of paradise he gets company.
These sticks are from a dead branch that fell in a storm earlier this summer and it makes an easy landing spot for the young birds. Unfortunately it provides no protection from alligators that could easily lurch out of the water and snatch one of them.
This section of the pond is choked with duckweed and the alligators travel easily unseen beneath it. Even if they do see a predator the herons rarely take evasive action.
There are no ducks around to eat the duckweed right now and the conditions seem to be perfect for it to thrive, making for very green photographs.
I could hear the Red-bellied Woodpecker around the swamp from the distinctive shrill call. Sound bouncing off the water can make the exact direction hard to pinpoint. Eventually the flash of red gave away his position.
This tree branch has a number of holes the woodpecker was exploring while a juvenile Little Blue Heron looked on.
The Black-crowned Night Herons built their nests on the interior of the swamp’s islands so we haven’t seen much of the juveniles. A few weeks ago they started to venture out onto branches and this week we’ve seen some fly.
This one dropped down near the path giving me an opportunity for a portrait. His eyes haven’t yet turned to the characteristic red that makes this heron really stand out as an adult.
Taking a longer flight, this heron flew to the next island, showing off his sizable feet. Like the Great Blue Herons, the Night Herons seem to be on their own learning to fly.
He found a perch and stayed with it. He had a great spot for watching the Little Blue Herons work on their flying lessons.