Can you believe it is April already? Had a nice little getaway in St Augustine last week during the Editor’s time off for Spring break. I hope that the snow is finally starting to melt up north for you folks north of I-10. While the Editor slept in and caught up on some reading by the fireplace at the Hotel I decided to visit the local Alligator Farm bird rookery. It was a finger numbing cold morning but clear blue skies. I still managed to press the doohickey a few times with nearly frozen fingers. The Great Egrets and Wood Storks are nesting right now. And we saw the first new Egret arrivals on one of the nests.
The Great Egret is one of the most elegant and graceful birds seen on the Broward. Not quite as large as the Great Blue Heron, these birds still possess an impressive wingspan as they glide overhead. The feathers are all white. The bills are yellowish orange, and the legs are black. During mating season the beaks show an emerald green color near the eyes and base of the beak and wispy nuptial plumes on the body. It was for these plumes that the birds were nearly hunted to extinction in the late nineteenth century. They have made a wonderful comeback thanks to laws and efforts to conserve and protect them. The Alligator farm has a very successful bird rookery (as well as alligators). The gators, being cold blooded reptiles, are not moving much but they will keep a wary eye on these bird nests for anything that happens to fall out or birds that venture too close to the waters edge. It is definitely buyer beware when using this rookery. But other than the gators, the birds have few if any other predators to worry about raiding their nests from below. The rookery has dozens of Egret and Wood Stork nests seen on arrival. The sun was just rising but the birds were not moving much yet due to the near freezing weather. A few birds were showing off their plumes as they displayed. One in particular was arching his neck and leaning back in a stunning display of feathers that gleam white in the morning sun. One surprise is the presence of the Roseatte Spoonbills who have just arrived this past week. They are busy building nests in the Bald Cyprus trees that are just beginning to bloom with new spring growth. A Black-crowned Night Heron and a Snowy Egret are also present this morning. As the sun begins to warm up we are surprised to see three fuzzy white heads poke up above the sticks on one of the Great Egret nests. As the parents proudly watch the hatchlings, they squawk and peck at the adults beak for food, which the parents oblige with "fresh" breakfast treats. Not real appetizing in my opinion but then again I don’t have to share. I just press the doohickey. It was only a year ago I took my first bird photographs of some newly hatched egrets at this same place and got hooked on bird photography. I am not too hungry after watching the birds eat but do manage a few more pictures.
The new arrivals are a sure sign of spring and that the mating season is starting to get into full swing in Northern Florida. Now I know why I am seeing fewer and fewer birds on the Broward. The soon to be parents have other things on their minds right now. Wonder if I can get a tax deduction for the new birds? I depend on them. But they seem to get tax-free benefits everyday come rain or shine. Come to think about it so do we! Think about it. In the meantime, keep the coffee pot warm. Be Blessed. Harry