Have you heard of a “rookery island” where dozens of birds of several species flock at sunset to find sanctuary for the night? I have found it magical to observe: as one great egret and eight ibis and three cormorants and six pelicans and a couple great blue heron and even more and more soar in from every direction and land side by side on every available branch of a tiny island of mangrove trees as the sun turns a brilliant orange and the light rapidly fades across the water… and the scene is silent.
I described the scene to my uninitiated friends as a Christmas tree fully decorated with ornaments on every bough, or a crowded church were a few more families arrive late and say, “please make room for us.”
“Mind if I join you?” is the quote that comes to mind. There is something about this clumsy looking, yet actually graceful pelican landing that I find endearing. Brown pelicans are huddling in close quarters on this rookery island to spend the night.
It is a privilege to watch all of these graceful birds flock to the island in Rookery Bay (near Naples, Florida) at sunset. This close up is a cropped image, captured with a 200mm Nikon lens. We are not as close as we appear, and we stay silent to avoid disturbing this natural daily migration.
The sunset Eco-cruise is provided by the Southwest Conservancy. Buy your own ticket online at conservancy.org.
If this sounds like a good title of a children’s book, you think like I do. I would like to write a sequel to “Goodnight Moon,” and use my photos of pelicans getting ready to say “good night.”
This close up photograph shows a pelican landing to join many others settling in for the night on a rookery island near Naples, Florida. They can rest and refresh themselves here, safe from raccoons and other land-based prey. This image was taken just minutes before sunset.
This rookery island is a favorite nighttime resting place for these large birds — the pelicans, ibis, egrets and cormorants. At sunset large flocks swarm in from every direction and birds land on every available branch, squawking at one another to move over and make room. It is a peaceful and unique sight to witness by boat. This location is south of Naples in the Gordon River estuary.