Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A time of Renewal, A time of new life, of being born!

Baby ducks get their first taste of seed.

Here in my little corner of Florida the signs of new life begin in January and February with the nesting of the Anhinga and Great Blue Herons. Ospreys also begin nesting in January as well as some other herons and egrets and the doves in my back yard. By spring the wetlands come alive with birds carrying nesting materials and building nests. By late spring early summer there are baby birds everywhere.
Young Great Blue Heron wants to be fed!
So do they. Glad I am not a Great Blue Heron parent.

On my last trip to Wakodahatchee some of the Great Blue Heron babies were still in the nest although it was evident that they should be moving on. The parent was ignoring the young ones pleas for food and the young one was harassing the parent to no end. I am sure glad I am not a Great Blue Heron Parent.

Baby Red-wing Blackbird gets fed.

Also evident were the baby Red-wing Blackbirds. These are hard to see in the nest as the nest is quite deep and getting any clear pictures was a feat with all the foliage. We did however find one mommy feeding her young and was able to get a few shots of this event. We also baby Moorhens and baby Black-necked Stilts. We were lucky at one point to see a Limpkin fly in and it was bringing home the bacon for its family. This was a very cool sighting.

Moorehen Chick

The Rookery

There is a little rookery (a colony of breeding birds) at Long Key Nature Center where Great Egrets, Tri-colored Herons and Cattle Egrets nest in spring. I was late getting to it this year and the Great Egrets were already nesting and the eggs were starting to hatch. In fact that day one was hatching out. I have been back every weekend since. It is fun to go and see how things are progressing, although I sometimes get confused. Where I remember there was a nest it seems is no longer there. Where last week I saw eggs in a nest this week nothing is there. I suppose that when I am not there other critters raid the nests and get at the eggs and then the birds move on or try again as my resident doves do. And then there are the Hawks and other predators. I do know that there is a colony of Iguanas that also inhabits this island. Now whether or not the Iguanas eat eggs was unknown to me. Not knowing prompted me to do a search on Google and most responses said that they (the Iguanas) were vegetarians but would eat meat if presented to them and occasionally do enjoy a bird's egg.
Great Egret Chicks

Tri-colored Heron Chicks

Last week end I saw some newly hatched Tri-colored Herons. Well I really didn’t see much as they were just laying there in the nest, little grey balls of fluff, while mommy or daddy stood guard. I think that soon some of the Cattle Egrets would soon have babies too. There sure are a lot of them sitting on nests. The nests are staggered so that it reminds me of an apartment complex. In a way I suppose it is.

Apartment Living

It is such a pleasure to be able to sit and watch all the activity going on. There are birds flying in and out with nesting material or food for the families. Sometimes there is what appears to be fight between pairs about the placement of the nesting material or some neighbors squabbling over nesting space. Little heads appear in the nest. A parent is turning the eggs. Another parent spreads its wings to shade the young from the hot sun. An Anhinga chick sees something and stretches its neck to try and reach it “Careful Jr. or you will fall out of the nest. Closer to the water there is a pair of Tri-color fledglings getting ready to try to fish for themselves. They will surely be gone next time I go out there.

Great Egret Flies in with nesting material.

Tri-Colored Herons building a nest.

Cattle Egret Turns eggs.

Young Tri-colored Fledglings ready to try fishing

Anhinga young reaching for something

This week things are progressing and there is evidence of all stages of nesting activity from nests being built, to nests filled with eggs, to just hatched chicks, to older chicks to fledglings. And believe it or not some of the birds are still showing their beautiful breeding colors. This week also brought our first glimpses of the newly hatched Cattle egrets. To me they look very much like the Great Egret nestlings. I can’t wait to see what next week brings…………………..

Cattle Egret with chicks

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Everywhere I go I see the signs of spring in Florida. Wikipedia says Spring is seen as a time of growth, renewal, of new life (both plant and animal) being born. The term is also used more generally as a metaphor for the start of better times, we can only hope!

I went to Wakodahatchee and if course the Great Blue herons are well underway in their nesting activities in fact most will be leaving their nest soon the same is true of the Anhinga.

Both of these birds tend start early in January and February and by the time the rest of the birds decide to nest the Great Blue Herons are ready to fly the coup so to speak. There is however lots of other activity as the male Red-wing Blackbirds perch and flash their red and chase after the females. The females perch too and some are quite beautiful in their breeding colors.

Here too there are signs of Tri-colored Herons trying to attract mates and lots of nest building here too and with the Green Herons and the Cattle Egrets too.

The March hares were out in force that day and what a treat to see. I got my first good shot of them this time. Usually they are so far away that my camera and lens won't reach them. But this one was busy hunting for food and didn't pay us any attention. We tried to be a quiet as church mice so as not to frighten him off.

We went to Green Cay as well that day but the signs there are not as clear as they are at Wakodahatchee, although we did see lots of nesting Moorhens. I had never seen their nest before and they were quite out in the open and seem to have a runway entrance. The way the reeds are bent they look like baskets from the right angle.

Not too many warblers around but the Purple Martins were busy as bees at both locations.

The following weekend we went out to a local natural area and we were treated to lots of nesting activity and displaying by the Great Egrets there. How beautiful were those green patches are and the displaying of feathers was fantastic. Here there were Tricolored Herons and several Anhingas; I also noticed one Green Heron and a couple of Little Blues. Not to mention the Red-wings black birds and the Boat-tailed Grackles. As if this wasn't enough we were treated to glimpses of a new born Great Egret.............First Born and just a ball of fluff with a very big beak.

We went back to Long Key this weekend and the newborn Egret has to siblings and it looks like he was complaining to his mom about them. The neighbor’s two are about a week or so older and they are starting to flap their wings. It should be interesting around there for a while with all the nests that are in this Rookery.

Now that I think about nesting or courting is probably what that pair of shrikes was up to at Chapel Trail a couple of weeks ago. At Flamingo Gardens I saw that the Sandhill Cranes have two eggs. They built their nest (if you want to call it that) on higher ground this year.

Last year the rains swept their nest away. This year as well as being on higher ground they seem to be using the tree roots as a confining space for the eggs rather then build a nest. Also I noticed the Female Egyptian Goose lying in the grass and her mate standing watch. Now I don’t know if she is sitting on eggs or just sitting and resting. I sure hope no one bother here there if she is in fact nesting. She is right along the path and I can just see the kids running to pet her or chase her. .

Along with all the birding activity I am seeing more butterflies and dragonflies around. There are lots of flowering shrubs and trees in bloom I just love those yellow flowers on the Yellow Tabebuia tree, although I haven’t taken any pictures of them this year. Another Favorite is the Shaving Brush Tree. I am not sure which I like better about this plant is it the delicate pink flowers of the way the five petals curl up and the bud opens. Now that I am thinking about it I have quite a few favorites like the Angel’s Trumpet, the African Tulip Trees, The Autograph Tree and who can resist the Jacarandas when they are in bloom, or the Royal Poinciana’s regal display.
OK enough about trees but it’s all out there if you stop and look and take the time to stop and smell the roses and you will be amazed at what great wonders Mother Nature has to offer.