Well Hello, Heron Hatchling

April is the month for baby birds to hatch, and Southwest Florida is now alive with chirping sounds. Of course, we humans need to keep our distance and give plenty of space and security to all the birds in their nests. Let me assure you that I have a long telephoto lens, and I also crop my files to bring you a close up, while maintaining a respectful distance.

This stately Great Blue Heron stands astride an adorable hatchling, just a few inches tall, yet very alert and watching me. The sight of this nest with mother and chick was a very special first for me. I hope the photo brings you a sense of wonder and delight.

Adult Great Blue Heron with breeding plumage stands tall in her nest with two hatchlings at her feet. One is visible in this photograph near Naples, Florida in April 2021.

Prints are available; please contact cathykellyphotography@gmail.com for details. More nesting photos to come!

Watch Your Step, Heron

Dear Beautiful Heron, Please watch your step as you tiptoe silently through the long grasses and past the purple thistle. Do you remember those baby alligators that you like to eat? When they grow up, those big alligators might take a bite out of you. If they catch you, they will eat you whole, feathers and all.

Great Blue Heron tiptoes slowly and silently through the tall grasses and the thistle in the Everglades, March 2021.

Also silently lurking nearby in the grass is this large alligator. If he is hungry, the Great Blue Heron could be his next meal. Yikes! The food chain is merciless.

American Alligator, lying in wait for its next meal near the water where wading birds feed. Shark Valley, Everglades National Park, March 2021.

Eight Wood Storks

On my annual trip to Shark Valley in Everglades National Park, I witnessed something for the first time. Eight wood storks were roosting in a single tree! I frequently see one or two in Pelican Bay or on the golf course, but I have never seen so many of them together, and I had never seen them in a tree. This remarkable scene was a distance away, but my Sony lens has a 400mm reach.

Eight wood storks roost in a tree in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park. It was an overcast day in March, right after a rain shower, Sony a7rIV, 100-400mm lens at 400mm.

Brown Pelican Party

These two Brown Pelicans met in the mangrove shortly after sunrise. Perched alongside one another, they looked identical. A few minutes later, they were splashing in the water nearby, breaking the silence of the early morning. Were they competing for fish, or showing territorial behavior? I honestly don’t know, but I said to my friend Marjorie, “It’s a Pelican Party over there.”

Golden morning light on two Brown Pelicans, perched in the mangrove at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, February 2021.

Great Pose for a Heron

This Great Blue Heron stretched its sinuous neck to look around from its perch high in the mangrove, giving us a great view of its ventral feathers. The heron’s body formed a pleasing serpentine curve. Lucky for me, the sun was behind me and perfect on the heron and the sky.

Looking up at a Great Blue Heron at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge in the Everglades, Florida, March 2021.

The Early Bird

What they say is true. The early bird gets the best light. (Maybe the worm too.). Patches of golden light filtered through the trees and lit this Great Blue Heron standing erect in the marsh. An hour later this soft, golden light was just a memory, or in this case, a photograph.

Admire the delicacy of this Great Blue Heron’s feathers as it stands tall and elegant in this serene setting at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Preserve at sunrise.

Pelicans in Formation

When I observe birds flying and swimming in formation, I often think of synchronized dancers performing on stage or marching bands, but then I realize that humans are the ones imitating nature. We wear uniforms or dance costumes, so we will look as similar as two birds of the same species, right?

Two White Pelicans foraging together at low tide mirror each other in formation, as the overhead sun casts a mirror-like shadow on all three pelicans in the water. Low tide is feeding time, and on this day it happened near noon. J.N. Ding Darling Nature Preserve, Sanibel Island, Florida, January 2021.

When photographing wildlife, you can’t plan this. You just have to be patient enough to sit and wait, following your subject and continually adjusting your focus. Note: something really cool usually happens after you pack up your tripod and start walking back to the car!

Pelican Stare Down

I’m not sure who blinked first, but I do know that my camera shutter clicked before this handsome Brown Pelican looked away. I followed this Pelican for several minutes through a 600mm lens at a significant distance, tracking his behavior at a comfortable distance, not disturbing him. Yet he saw me watching!

As a bird lover with a specific affection for Brown Pelicans, I enjoyed this moment of connection with a Brown Pelican at the J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. The yellow crown feathers and pink bill indicate a pre-breeding adult. January 2021.

Brown Pelicans and Climate Change

There are so many reasons to like the Brown Pelican. I love to watch them dive for fish along the Gulf Coast of Florida. They are so big with a length of a meter and wingspan of 2-3 meters, yet they are docile and quiet.

This Brown Pelican takes off while feeding in the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve on Sanibel Island, Florida. Its yellow crown feathers and pink beak indicate it is a pre-breeding adult.

Yet another important reason to love brown pelicans is the important role they play as an indicator species to help humans monitor the effects of climate change. We can monitor their numbers and migration to help understand the changes in fish population.

Synchronized Swimming: White Pelicans

These White Pelicans reminded me of swans as I watched them forage together and look like mirror images of each other. As these three swam away from me and kicked up ripples on the surface, they looked back toward the camera.

White Pelicans forage in a small group on Sanibel Island during low tide. This photograph captures their synchronized swimming.

White Pelicans are true “snow birds,” as they migrate to Southwest Florida in winter from the Great Lakes region. Dozens of them return to Sanibel Island every year.