March 18, 2019
Almost everywhere I go to take pictures, there are unexpected surprises. Today Mel and I went back to Weedon Island Preserve where we have been several times before. Mel wanted to fish and I wanted to go for a walk—oh, and maybe take a few pictures along the way.
Weedon Island Preserve is a lovely place to walk, with seemingly endless boardwalks through otherwise impenetrable thickets of mangrove trees. I wasn’t expecting to find much in the way of song birds or dragonflies to photograph along the boardwalks– they just don’t seem to hang out in the mangrove trees, but I had my camera with me anyway, because, on previous visits, I have captured a few shorebirds, ospreys and gopher tortoises.
As I exited the first long boardwalk without a single picture, though, I decided to follow a path I hadn’t taken before, and I wondered where it might take me. Not very far down the trail, I found out– more birds than I had ever seen before in this preserve! There were Great White Egrets, White Ibises, Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons and one bright pink Roseate Spoonbill– all busily foraging for food in the swampy waters of a huge mangrove thicket alongside the trail. Between all the scurrying and all the thickets, it was quite difficult for me to get a decent picture! But, from the pictures I did manage to get, you can see how incredibly dense a mangrove thicket is!
It was fascinating to just watch and listen. When the Great Egrets weren’t looking for food, they were flitting about and making quite a racket!
Great Egrets make dry, croaking sounds, nasal squeals, and other harsh calls. They are particularly vocal during breeding season as they go about establishing territories, courting, forming pairs, and maintaining pair bonds.
I guess that’s what all the ruckus was about!
The Roseate Spoonbill, on the other hand, was quietly searching for food as it moved through the shallow waters swinging its head from side to side and sifting the muck with its wide, flat bill. He kind of reminded me of the hose on a vacuum cleaner swishing this way and that sucking up everything in his path! Periodically, he would hop up on a limb and I’d try to get a picture of him before he quickly leapt back into the water for another round of foraging.
In between the Great Egrets and the Roseate Spoonbill, were the Snowy Egrets and the Tricolored Herons. There was actually so much going on, that I was having a hard time staying focused on the picture at hand! I have no idea why this particular spot was so incredibly popular, but I knew it was rare and I hung around for a very long time taking hundreds of pictures (Sometimes referred to as the “spray and pray” method –take a million pictures and pray that one turns out!)
In all, I walked around the preserve for about four hours, and that spot was the only place where I got any pictures at all—other than an armadillo I saw foraging in the dirt on my way back to the car, and one shot of Mel fishing on the pier that I took from high up in an observation tower on the boardwalk about an eighth of a mile away.
Between the large cache of birds and the foraging armadillo, it was an unexpectedly good day for pictures!