Mindful that darkness was coming I stopped to take a few images of a Great Blue Heron overlooking the swamp from his tree perch. Sometimes the receding color in the sky is spectacular here; this night the color was more subtle.
An abstract sky over the Ashley River, Charleston, SC.
About 45 minutes before sunset, 12/18/2018.
Searching for dinner
A Little Blue Heron sends
A ripple signal
I hear Common Gallinules more often than see them. Per All About Birds they “make all sorts of chicken-like clucks, whinnies, cackles, squawks, and yelps.” Needless to say, many a birder has jumped when that racket starts, often accompanied by one or more Gallinules running across the water to safety. I often refer to them as the early warning system for other ducks and wildlife I might have been hoping to see.
These images were taken on different days, but in the same area. The stump in the image above is newly sticking out of the water as the rice field pond has been drained for repairs.
The red bill in the image below looks almost like fake plastic, but that is how they look. Bald Eagles will stalk Gallinules in this pond and I wonder how that beacon of red appears to them.
The majority of the water has been let out of one of the rice field ponds at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in advance of some repairs to be made on the back dike. This has left a mud flat that is very attractive to the wading birds.
From a distance I thought the other creature was a stick but I could clearly see the eyes of a small Alligator as I got closer.
The last image is focused on the Alligator, that was content to hold that spot while the Tricolored Heron hunted behind him.
A flock of Double-crested Cormorants was hanging out on a dead tree that has fallen into a pond on a recent sunny afternoon. When I first spotted them my view of the group was blocked by reeds, but this one had found a higher perch.
As I worked my way along the bank I saw these two were having a squabble.
One exited with a big flap while the rest ignored him. You can see the bird from my first image near the top, towards the left.
As I rounded the end of the pond I was able to get a view from a different angle and closer to the water.
Middleton Place has a flock of sheep that roam the main grounds keeping them manicured. Weighted gates that close automatically behind the tourists allow foot traffic into the central green of the plantation and keep the sheep from escaping.
The sheep are looking scraggly as we head into winter; they will be shorn in the spring after lambs are born.
Belgian Horses are another heritage breed raised at Middleton Place. They provide carriage rides for visitors around the plantation grounds and are ignored by the sheep as they graze.
“A National Historic Landmark, home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America and an enduring, vibrant, and essential part of the Charleston and American experience.”
I spotted this juvenile Bald Eagle circling the rice field pond a couple of times, then he put his feet down. I thought I was going to capture a landing.
He changed his mind! A pair of adult Eagles use this area daily, and generally the juveniles are not welcome to share. I waited and watched thinking maybe one of them was approaching. If so, I did not spot it.
Junior circled the pond one more time then landed in a pine tree further down the edge of the pond. If I hadn’t seen him land I wouldn’t have known he was there. He stayed put for longer than I stood waiting for him to make another move.
These wooden posts are leftovers from an old dock or walkway at the edge of a rice field pond and the wading birds often perch on them.
The Great Egret was standing still so a slower shutter speed allowed me to capture some images even though the sun had dipped below the tree line and there wasn’t much light in this end of the pond.
Looking in the opposite direction an Alligator was swimming towards a spot to settle for the night.