Posts Tagged With: tricolored heron

Evening At The Rookery

Procrastination is the root of all evil. You can quote me.

“Snail Kite!” Sure enough, the cinnamon-colored female was at the end of a fishing pier extracting a morsel from a large Apple Snail. Gini said I should come back and walk along this area in hopes of getting some good photos.

“Look at all those egrets!” Gini pointed to a clump of reeds along the shore which were anchored by a stand of willows and a couple of tall cypress trees. This is a spot which has, for the past few years, hosted a small rookery and is quite accessible from the sidewalk running parallel to the lake frontage.

This two-mile stretch of road along the lake is a main connector to a major thoroughfare on the northern city limits. As such, it is heavily traveled. The low speed limit is helpful for spotting birds along the shore and out into the lake, but it’s best to leave such activity to the passenger for safety’s sake.

The above sightings were almost two months ago. Last week I finally visited the area with the camera. Most of the nests were empty. No chicks were visible. A few young birds were hanging about, mostly to mock me for being so late.

It was about two hours before sunset, but in an hour the sun’s rays would be blocked by buildings on the west side of the road so I only had about an hour of good light left. The gang of youngsters was raucous and began pushing and shoving to claim the best spot to roost for the night. A few adults made an appearance but could not calm the unruly kids.

Next year. Yeah. Next year I’ll get here in time for nesting and eggs and babies. Honest.

 

The ubiquitous Cattle Egret is usually taken for granted. We ignore them in our rush to find something “less common”. In breeding plumage, we realize how handsome they can be.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

A young Tricolored Heron has learned patience from his parents and was eventually rewarded with a small fish. His sister wants to know if you like her hair styling.

West Lake Parker Drive

West Lake Parker Drive

 

For a brief time during breeding, adult Little Blue Herons display darker blue bills, black eyes and black legs.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

Immature Little Blue Herons will remain white for most of their first year and will have mottled blue and white plumage for almost another year before displaying the complete blue of an adult.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

Juvenile Anhingas are also white (mostly) at birth and begin to show light brown within their first few weeks. These are still on the nest but will soon be capable of independent flight. Interestingly, they can swim (if they have to) within several days of hatching.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

The sun was about to drop out of sight and a mass of American Lotus lit up with the final light of the day.

West Lake Parker Drive

 

As you pass that spot which beckons you to grab your camera, do it. Don’t put it off. I don’t want you to miss the joy of this year’s baby egrets, the heron hiding her chick with a wing, the breeding plumage only visible for a few days. Carpe Diem.

 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – 1

Beginning a trip in darkness stimulates my feelings of anticipation and excitement. What will this day offer? As the morning sky begins to lighten, familiar shapes are mere shadows and it seems as if anything spoken should be in a whisper.

For some reason (deep, dark, repressed, psychological reasons, I’m sure), I have difficulty retrieving detailed memories of some childhood events. (Okay, to be fair, it was a LONNNNNG time ago!) One thing I recall in delicious, granular fashion is fishing. The announcement on Friday that we would be getting up early the next morning to go to Lake Panasoffkee ensured that I would not sleep one minute that night. Hitching up the boat, checking the tackle, pulling out of the driveway in the dark, arriving at the boat ramp before sunrise, a layer of mist on the water.

Some things don’t change much. Gini and I had mentioned more than once during the winter that we need to visit the east coast while migration was still in full swing. Thus, we set our sights on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a day trip. One sleepless night, coming right up.

The actual drive is not all that bad. Yes, we had to negotiate the hazards of the interstate highway through the Orlando/Disney megalopolis. Accomplishing this feat at 5:00 a.m. is much more acceptable than about an hour later. Also, once past the city center, the denser traffic was on the other side, heading west toward waiting jobs. The sky in the east was beginning to glow.

Turning onto Black Point Wildlife Drive resulted in audible sighs from both of us. Tension was released and we felt that moment of comfortable relaxation which being surrounded by the natural world produces. Sounds and sights of birds preparing to survive a new day promised adventure! We were not to be disappointed.

The refuge was established in 1963 as part of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Consisting of more than 140,000 acres, the area contains coastal dunes, salt and fresh water marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. Located on the Atlantic Ocean and offering protection from adverse weather makes the refuge a prime target for migrating waterfowl and other bird species. The diverse habitat also is home to a wonderful variety of other flora and fauna.

Gini, as usual, thoughtfully prepared a light breakfast and picnic lunch so we wouldn’t have to interrupt our exploration by having to forage for food in the nearby “civilized” jungle. Munching a sandwich while watching alligators and egrets is highly preferable to clinking plates and noisy diners – in our opinion.

This post covers the first half of the day. After lunch will have to wait until next time.

 

Dawn. Always a special time. Within a vast marsh, even more so.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Ducks and wading birds begin their routine of searching for food. Light fog hugs the surface of the world.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A Green Heron perches atop a mangrove tree, knowing the intricate root system harbors an amazing array of life in the shallow water.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Blue-winged Teal are by far the most numerous duck species within the refuge today. Most of the tens of thousands of feeding ducks remained out of camera range but included: American Widgeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Lesser (and possibly Greater) Scaup.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Break(fast) dancing performed by a Tricolored Heron.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Flocks of Glossy Ibis were active throughout the day moving from one area to another.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Killdeer seem to always have something to shout about. Usually, it’s me.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Patience is the key to a meal. Here it’s put into practice by a Little Blue Heron.

 

Merritt Island NWR

 

We saw dozens of Lesser Yellowlegs during the day and a couple of their bigger brothers, the Greater Yellowlegs. This Lesser showed off its namesake.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The feathered breakfast hunters needed to be wary of another breakfast hunter. American Alligator.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The Osprey uses keen eyes and altitude to locate a finny feast in the shallow salt water. This bird disappeared in a huge splash, surfaced with a large fish, struggled to get airborne, but ultimately had to release his catch. I’m familiar with that problem: “Eyes too big for stomach.”

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Following the example of the ducks, most of the thousands of shorebirds in the refuge today preferred to stay out of range of the camera. A few strayed to within a couple of miles. This Sanderling will maintain its light non-breeding plumage for another couple of months.

Merritt Island NWR

 

 

Our day began in darkness then exploded with light as blue sky and clear water were filled with birds of infinite color and beauty! A delicious picnic, a short rest – time to race the sun and pack each minute with new discoveries!

 

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

 

Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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