Bird Rookeries along the Peace River
April 12, 2011 Wildlife Photography
I’ve met so many absolutely wonderful friends and photographers through flickr over the last four years. It’s amazing how one website can bring so many people together and have them become friends. Everyone shares photography tips, the best places to go to find whatever bird or mammal you’re looking to add to your ‘list’ of images and we always have wonderful photography meet ups.
JMW on flickr, also known as Michael is one of those contacts. He’s been a contact of mine for awhile now but we never had the chance to meet, until this past weekend. He invited Michael Pancier, Claudia Domenig and I out on his boat for a tour of the bird rookeries along the Peace River. I had already met Michael Pancier and Claudia at previous meet ups, but this was the first time I met JMW.
JMW put his boat in the water and we all climbed in with his help. I’ve got to say, I haven’t been in a regular boat since I was probably ten years old. Oh I’ve been on a ferry that went from Wales to Ireland, cruise ships, smaller ferries, etc… but it’s been a long time since I was on a regular boat. This is one tidbit of info I didn’t share with the group, I didn’t want them to think I was going to get seasick (I know my husband was worried about that). Quite the opposite, I had a blast! On the way back, speeding through wakes from other boats was like a roller coaster ride, and to me that’s the best!
There were a bunch of pelicans out there, I just love those birds. As goofy and big as they seem, they’re actually quite graceful in flight and fun to watch.
Our first stop was where there were some Yellow Crowned Night Herons nesting. They had nests but we couldn’t see any babies. I was able to get one of the herons as it took off, they’re such unique birds.
Our next stops were several other rookeries that were filled with Cattle Egrets, Woodstorks, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Cormorants, Night Herons, Ibis, and all kinds of other birds including Grackles, Cardinals, etc.
At one point JMW maneuvered the boat into a little horseshoe bend section of one of the rookeries. We were literally surrounded on three sides with nesting birds. It was amazing. I’ve been to bird rookeries in the past, but they weren’t like this. Usually you’re on a boardwalk with a bunch of other people. This time it was just the four of us, in a boat, with all these birds just going about their business of building nests and feeding babies. I was pretty awestruck to be smack dab in the middle of everything. Mother Nature put on a show for us that day!
One of the most beautiful things about breeding/nesting season are the colors these birds get. As you can see above the Cattle Egret is literally BURSTING with color. This is the only time of year this happens, the rest of the year they go back to being plain white birds that follow cows around eating bugs in pastures (or even rooting around in the landscaping at your local McDonalds). These are birds that most of the year people probably don’t even notice. We saw a lot of Cattle Egrets getting sticks and ‘posing’ with them before moving on to wherever their nest was that they were building.
The biggest population of birds there at the rookeries we visited had to be the Woodstorks. They were EVERYWHERE and most of them had babies of various ages. To photograph the Woodstork babies was actually a first for me! Obviously the adult Woodstorks are not the supermodels of the bird world, but they are sure cool to look at….and seem very prehistoric to me.
They were also very busy gathering sticks for their nests. I’d like to think this one Woodstork (below) was going for more of a Martha Stewart decorating motif of his nest, this is actually quite a pretty branch
Woodstork babies. Again, not the supermodels of the bird world. But they are really cute in their own way.
Extreme close up of the same baby above…
I mentioned the colors before of these birds. Here’s a Tri Colored Heron in his breeding colors, how blue is that beak?! I call it Smurf blue.
We had a fantastic time out on the water with JMW. He does do tours if you’d like to head out onto the river and witness Mother Nature at her best! You can visit his website HERE for more information on the tours he offers. If you haven’t visited a bird rookery by boat, you should!
I’ll leave you with some Woodstork babies that are in more of a ‘cute and fuzzy’ stage…..