Friday, April 22, 2011

EGRETS NESTING AND NEWBORNS FEEDING!

I really love watching egrets fly. Of all the birds I have seen in Florida, the egret seems the most graceful. Even if they are just sitting in a tree, they have a gracefulness about them. There are more than just one type of egret. Some of them are the Cattle Egret, the Snowy Egret and the type featured in this posting; the Great Egret.




The Great Egret is a large bird with all-white plumage that can reach one meter in height, weigh up to 950 grams (2.1 lb) and have a wing span of 165 to 215 cm (65 to 85 in). It is thus only slightly smaller than the Great Blue or Grey Heron (A. cinerea). Apart from size, the Great Egret can be distinguished from other white egrets by its yellow bill and black legs and feet, though the bill may become darker and the lower legs lighter in the breeding season. In breeding plumage, delicate ornamental feathers are borne on the back. Males and females are identical in appearance; juveniles look like non-breeding adults. It is a common species, usually easily seen.
It has a slow flight, with its neck retracted. This is characteristic of herons and bitterns, and distinguishes them from storks, cranes, ibises, and spoonbills, which extend their necks in flight.
The Great Egret is not normally a vocal bird; at breeding colonies, however, it often gives a loud croaking cuk cook cook.

When we arrived at the alligator farm, we saw only one nest (of which there were many) with newborn chicks. I was told by one of the staff that the chicks were 7 - 10 days old. As you can see, they still have that downy white look..
There were three chicks in the nest and at least one parent the entire three days we were there.  I have read that egret chicks practice siblicide. The two eldest chicks will often attack and kill their younger siblings and toss them out of the nest. Where is the parent while this is happening? They are standing right there preening, seemingly not interested in this gruesome act.
Thankfully, we did not witness this extreme form of sibling rivalry.
What we did witness was three chicks calling for food and calling often!

These chicks like all newborns are so cute and a little bit awkward looking. Their bills look almost too large for their small heads. Each day we were there, I was drawn to this nest. Looking at the chicks and the parent interacting seemed to have a special effect on me.  It was so darn interesting watching nature and this compelling story of survival; to see these cute little chicks in their nest and then looking down about thirty feet below them to the swamp area and sudden death.

Hundreds of crocodiles are swimming or laying around waiting for a chick or adult bird to fall out of the nest or fly just close enough to be reached with these jaws of death. As I walked along the boardwalk, I did wonder about the construction of these structures. They seemed strong, well built and they have been there for many years. Ahh, many years wood beams standing in water?? Okay, so after that thought, I stopped leaning against the railings. But in all seriousness, they are very strong and well put together. Looking down at all of these alligators, I had to keep reminding myself of that fact!!! 
Let's get back to the egrets. They are so much more graceful, cute and safe. 



There were some difficulties in photographing these birds. First, when there are three chicks and one or two adults in the nest, it is very difficult to have them all looking in my direction. Most of the time, I would get one or two chicks' faces and one of their backsides or the adult would be preening and have its head stuck under its wing. 

Another problem was the light. The sunlight was coming through the branches and the adult was so much taller then the chicks that often they would be in different light. The chicks were in bright sunlight and the adults' head was in dark shadow. During some moments, one of the chicks would be covered by the adult's shadow, thus creating a problem in getting the correct exposure for all at the same time. That is what nature photography is all about. You cannot dictate all the circumstances, cannot move the light and in many cases you cannot get any closer to the subject; at least not without putting the animal or yourself in danger.
After a while the other adult flew into the nest and the young ones really starting getting vocal about food!! We were lucky to capture this image of the adult sticking its bill down the throat of the chick and regurgitating a partially digested fish to feed the chick.

It is an amazing act to witness look how far down the baby's throat the adult's bill is!!!
When I started looking at these images on my computer, I was amazed at the nest image. 
At first I thought I just had a great image of the three chicks all looking forward and no chicks' butts lol.. But as I looked closer, I saw that one of the chicks had a partially digested fish in its bill.

You can see the fish in the bill of the chick in the middle. I was a little excited at capturing this image, actually more than just a little lol. Does that make me a geek????
Please remember you can click on the images to see a larger version.
Have a great weekend!

23 comments:

Mitzi said...

Awe....they are so cute...and OMG what a freaky yet awesome photo of the crocodile!

Nelieta said...

I love coming to your blog and see your photos come alive! Well done!

Alex said...

Hello! your blog is amazing..I followed! I also love animals and nature...

Alpana Jaiswal said...

MIND BLOWING...........

Mary said...

I sure hope that crocodile doesn't get a hold of those little babies :(

Jewell said...

Ok....that croc pic is more than a little freaky! sheesh!

I love Egrets...there's just a different quality to them that makes them seem more ethereal than other birds in a way. Maybe it's the plummage.

The husband and I were were out driving recently and saw a Cattle Egret. I'd never seen or heard of them before. We were driving at the time, and there were cattle in the way so a picture wasn't possible, but it was exciting! =)

Have a fantastic weekend!! xo

Alfandi said...

wow..really great shot of the chicks..feeding and all..awesome..

Roy Durham said...

lot better i do have to zoom to see it make for a clearer picture. thank you and god bless. buy the way if you get by my way the is the bear river bird refuge. and flaming gorge. well just get a tetra-bite card for you camera gb

Rimly said...

Jim I loved it! The crocodile was awesome. It is always a pleasure looking at your pictures, so real.

Monu Awalla said...

Photos of Egrets & croc were simply awesome.. your photography certainly tells more than just photography..

Ann said...

Amazing photos, Jim! Wish there were animals like these around here to photograph! Guess I'll just live vicariously through yours!

Jenni said...

You should have your own animal planet show or something. It's nice to see such knowledge about the birds you are photographing.
Makes you think why we are taught to protect our kids at all cost but, a lot of animals don't protect theirs.Kind of scary thought.
Beautiful pictures as always.

Jim said...

Those egrets truly are great photo subjects. And the aligator is awesome.
http://holesinmysoles.blogspot.com/2011/04/this-moment-friday-ritual-single-photo_22.html

Anonymous said...

Jim,
Amazing as always. Love the stories you tell with the photos.


xoxox
Jess

melissa said...

if this were pure story jim, i would still have loved it, because you've described them so well :P...

the introduction of the egret was delicately done... it would have been boring for some, but i could just imagine how beautiful they looked like with all those descriptions plus the photo showed how lovely the egret is...

i'm not sure if the black backgrounded of your blog page contributed to the photo effects ... however, my eyes were so fixed on the chicks and their activities to be drawn on the issue of light effects and shadows :P...

it's amazing how they feed their young... pre-chewed... :P...

oh i forgot, the in betweens...the famous alligator :P...finally i saw one... i wish i could see where you were located while photographing, hahaha... it would have been fun looking at you too...:p this alligator is part of the story...

i saw that fish in the young egret's bill before i read the guide :P... wow...

you really spent time with them in the whole sense...

just one thing i really missed is the sound of each bird you feature :P... that's it and i'm almost almost present there...

Jorie Pacli said...

Stunning as always Jim...I'm always left speechless looking a those photos... Well at least I've said something...lol Thanks for sharing. :)

FAYErydust said...

I really like the first picture. It's like it symbolizes purity and innocence because of its white color :)

Abhisek Panda said...

When it's Jim there's only one word that comes to mind...super Awesome.Your photographs never look dead they are always so full of life.The way you describe your photographs adds more life to them.I Love your photography. :D

Barbara said...

I just happened upon your site and blog and learned that you too were at Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. My friend and I were there from Mon. 4/18-4/21 am. Yes, of course we had photo passes and we were happy that we did with all those school kids coming in! Your pics turned out great! I saw a small blue heron regurgatate a yellow substance while I was there and was wondering what it was (not into the mouth of a chick either) and that lead me to your blog here! Happy Photographing. Great shots!

JIM said...

HI Barbara we were there on the 18 in the AM left about 11:30. We had arrived on Saturday. It is a wonderful place . Did you take any photos I would love to see them if you did. WE are going back in May for one night . I could go back every week but it is a 3 hour trip there for us. I will be posting other images in the next week including The Rosy Spoonbills on Monday. Please keep checking in.

Jim

Aaron said...

The picture of the egret feeding its chick is a wonderful capture. But my favorite is the first image of the egret in the green foliage. The contrast of the white on green just has the bird pop out of the page, and the image is so sharp and crisp.

Ravenmyth said...

Jim...love the mix with the Crocodile...that is an amazing shot...within the tranquility of the Egrets....

sulekkha said...

Nature photography at its best. Wow, loved the baby egerets pics and the one with the adult feeding the little one, awesome. You are a gifted photographer, thanks for sharing.