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.
Great Egret chicks number two was resting comfortably on his pile of sticks. If you look closely you can see his eye is open, but he wasn’t moving.
Number one is up and wants the world to know.
“OK, I’m up. Now what are we going to do?”
The egret and heron chicks spend weeks in the nest with no where to go and not much to do. When they get older I’ve seen them spar with each other once in awhile. Otherwise, getting fed and growing is their main order of business. Oh, and sleeping.
The Great Egret chicks in the top of the three nests in this tree are becoming more mobile and easier to photograph as they stand up to check mom/dad for food. The other adult in the lower left is standing on her own nest on the next level down, where so far i have not seen chicks.
The food is gone but the chicks’ beaks keep on moving. They maneuver to the edge of the nest, precariously close it appears from my vantage point. I likely made the same comment about the Great Blue Heron chicks. I’ve never seen an adult Great Egret or Great Blue Heron perform any type of protective move to get a chick away from the edge.
The adult looks ready to fly off and get a break from the little ones.
With their nests occupying the same tree the Great Egret seems to have come to a truce with the Great Blue Heron chicks. For now.
When the chicks were smaller an Egret tried to evict the chicks by forcible means. They were successful at this in some other nests but these two chicks persevered. Today they were ignoring each other.
If Great Egrets successfully hatch in this nest I expect there will be some more squabbling. I’m hoping the Great Blue Heron chicks will fledge before that happens. They are about nine weeks old so it can’t be too far off — I’ve seen estimates from seven to ten weeks.
This particular pair of chicks has shown very little sign of “wingercizing,” flapping their wings to get prepared to learn to fly. I’ve seen the larger chick in the nearby chick trio, younger by a couple of weeks, do it quite often. Maybe they just flap their wings and go one day.
The Great Egrets are in different stages of reproducing around the rookery, from fancy courting to feeding chicks.
This set of three nests arranged like stepped condos always has something going on.
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.
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.
I featured this Great Egret nest as the pair was starting to build. They had made some progress about 10 days later.
Look between the Great Egrets’ legs for a peek at one of the Great Blue Heron chicks in his nest.
The Great Egret pair showing some affection in between grooming activities,
From a different angle you can see how close together these nests are. On this day there was one Great Blue Heron nest, three Great Egret nests and one Anhinga nest. The Anhinga nest has since either failed or was raided and is no longer there.
On a recent trip to the rookery one some work was being done near a nesting area to remove some debris before the birds start their nests. A few Great Egrets treated us to an aerial show as they shifted around while work was in progress.
The flights provided a variety of shooting opportunities, with various wing poses and backgrounds as the circled around to return to their spots.
Coming in for a landing with a squawk:
I am amazed by the ability of these huge birds to navigate through branches.
A beautiful blue sky with fluffy clouds completes a classic flying shot.
Two pairs of Great Egrets are nesting condo style, their homes less than two feet apart separated only by a small branch. This is a prized location, surrounded by water for extra safety from ground predators, so there was competition for the nest sites.
Their nests claimed, each pair went about its business this sunny afternoon.
The ritual is very similar to what I have observed with the Great Blue Heron pairs: bring sticks, re-arrange sticks, mate, bring sticks.
Squawking from the other nest is mostly ignored, a lot like humans living in close proximity.