Friday, June 12, 2009

glamour and pageantry at the rookery

Great Egret digiscoped through a Leica APO Televid 82 spottting scope

Each spring Herons and Egrets perform complex, ritualized displays in order to attract a mate. When they enter this "high-breeding" state they grow specialized feather plumes and the bare skin between their bill and eye intensifies to a near fluorescent coloration. In Great Egrets this skin changes from its normal dull yellow (above) to a brilliant "electric" lime-green variant.

Great Egret displaying, St. Augustine Alligator Farm
The Great Egret above was performing a beautiful display to my eye and it was one of the few I saw at this rookery (taken in late April '09 at the Florida Bird & FotoFest in St. Augustine) that hadn't attracted a mate and at first I couldn't figure out why...
digiscoped with Leica APO Televid 82 & D-Lux 4 camera
But after watching a bit more some odd behavior may have explained the situation. Odd poses as seen above are certainly not helpful when vying for the attention of a potential mate. Despite the lovely pose struck below, it just loses something when you let your tongue hang out to the side... Some guys just don't get it! ;p
digiscoped w/ Leica APO Televid 82, Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, FL
Fortunately, others do figure it out. The bird below looking coy, washed in golden evening light below will almost certainly succeed. As you know, presentation is everything!
Great Egret digiscoped at sunset, May 2009
When "the dance" is performed properly, a mate is attracted and ritualized pair bonding follows. The suitor below arrives at the nest site and presents its mate with a stick....
Great Egret pair courting at nest, St. augustine, FL, April 2009

After successful courting and nest preparations, the "honeymoon" comes to an end and the arduous task of caring for young begins. A rewarding task none-the-less.

Great Egret with chicks @ nest digiscoped St. Augustine, FL 5/09

Great care must be taken to insure the young hatchlings have enough food to eat obviously but they must also be protected from the heat, predation, etc. An adult Great Egret feeds its young at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm rookery in the image below.

digiscoped through Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope, 5/09
If the adults fail to build a suitable nest, provide enough food, shade, or any of the other requirements, you don't have to look far to see what's in store for the kids.

American Alligator digiscoped St. Augustine 5/09

Typical of southern rookeries, many Alligators were lying in waiting beneath active nests anticipating a quick bite.


  1. Muy Impresionante Amigo!
    We need to do another Digi-scoping workshop in Panama. The last one was a great success... What a great shots you have on the blog..

    Hasta pronto,

  2. Gracias mi hermano!

    Couldn't agree more, it was a wonderful trip. Limited time makes this rough though. Next one is in Trinidad. Maybe in 2010?!?...