One of my favorite places to view birds is the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida. An alligator farm, you say, for viewing birds? Yes, wading birds of different species come there to nest for the safety of their young. You see, the alligators protect their young from tree climbing predators, such as raccoons. There is a very nice boardwalk that puts you at tree level with the birds, giving you a great advantage for photographing them. I’m not sure there is any other place where you can get this close to the birds and still be viewing them in a natural habitat.
They start arriving in February, starting with the Great Egret and are followed by Wood Storks, Roseate Spoonbills, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Tricolored Herons, Little Blue Herons and Green Herons. By July, fledglings are everywhere. Mid-March through July are prime time for viewing.
We were there April 1st this year. There were lots of Wood Storks in the tops of the trees, and just a few Tricolored Herons and Cattle Egrets were on the scene. The birds are dressed out in their mating plumage and colors, looking their best in order to attract a mate.
The Great Egrets are magnificent with their plumage and bright green color by their eyes. There was plenty of displaying going on, many were sitting on nests, and I saw one set of very young triplets.
The mating dance of the Great Egret.
I think the Great Egret has the best display of their plumage and seem to just love showing it off.
Great Egret tending its nest and the only set of chicks I saw.
The Snowy Egret is highly conspicuous and vocal in their sexual displays. They have plumage on their backs and heads. Their eye patch sometimes turns reddish as well as their feet, which is usually yellow.
The Roseate Spoonbills have always been one of my favorite birds. Probably because of their beautiful pink color and unusual beak and the fact that it is not that common to see them. There were plenty to be seen at the rookery, but it was a little early yet for their young.
In the past I have viewed the entire park, seeing all the gators and exotic birds they have. This trip I only spent time in the rookery. They also have a zip line, which I have heard was very good. Please allow a good bit of the day to view everything and to attend their shows. You can spend hours in the rookery alone, I know I do.
I just can’t leave you without baby pictures, so to give you a taste of what can be seen in the month of May, I am posting pictures from 2011. Enjoy.