About forty-five minutes before sundown the sun peaked beneath some clouds and lit up the tree at the end of the rookery. White Ibis filled most of the tree, but a few Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, and Little Blue Herons can be seen in between.
Birds were continuing to arrive but unfortunately for me the area closed and I had to leave.
When I first arrived at the end of the boardwalk at St. Augustine Alligator Farm a Great Egret had this little corner to himself. He was just sitting there, not actively bathing, but dunking a little. No Alligators were in the immediate vicinity, that I could see.
Even though he wasn’t doing anything to attract attention he soon had company, as first a Roseate Spoonbill sauntered over, a Snowy Egret dropped in, and then a White Ibis joined the group. The White Ibis, with a splash of mud on his wings, was most in need of a rinse.
The dirt look to the Spoonbill’s feathers is the transition to the darker pink/red that happens as they mature.
1/29/2018, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, Florida.
The sky was a glorious blue when I returned to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm for a second day. The birds were also pleased to have a nice day, and displayed all sorts of contortions going about their morning grooming.
This Spoonbill is starting to show the black stripe behind his eyes of an adult but still has the head feathers of a juvenile. You can also clearly see the orange tail feathers, one more unusual thing about this bird.
1/30/2018, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, Florida.
The Great Egret male brought the female a stick to add to their nest.
She accepted it with gusto and made quite a show of placing and re-arranging it.
Great Egret Pair
Now that they have a nest one of the two will likely stay close by, even before eggs are laid, to ensure an interloper doesn’t take possession of a ready-made home.
This rookery is at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park in St. Augustine, Florida. Founded in 1893 as a reptile exhibition, the park quickly became a major attraction. Over its 125 year life-span there were a lot of challenges including storms. relocation, and fire. Accredited by The American Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) in 1989 they have expanded their education mission and animal variety. (http://www.alligatorfarm.com)
The wading birds were naturally attracted to an area of the Zoo’s property that was perfect for roosting and nesting. During the 1970s a boardwalk was added through the rookery to allow visitors access to the birds above the swamp that is full of Alligators.
Roseate Spoonbills in flight are quite attractive, with their beautiful pink wing feathers with the red/pink bands across the edge fully open. This beauty is quite a contrast to their featherless heads and gnarly beaks.
Like the other wading birds I’m more familiar with, the Spoonbills are elegant flyers, with an effortless looking lift off that shows off all their colors.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, 1/28/2018