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.”
As our boat passed this Osprey family on their nest Sunday evening, I thought about our human families adjusting our lifestyles to “shelter in place,” and slow the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.
You have to admire the parental behavior of these beautiful Osprey. One parent will hunt for fish and bring it back to the nest to feed the family, and then tear apart the prey and feed the baby. Both parents keep a close eye out for any perceived threats coming close, such as bald eagles or humans. You can see the yellow eyes of mother Osprey on the right, hoping we will keep our distance. We were farther from the nest than it appears, as I made this photo with a 400mm Sony lens.
Who can resist the big amber eyes of the baby Osprey looking at the camera with naive curiosity. Babies of every species are precious.
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Silently watching a rookery island at sunset, I observed flocks of ibis, flocks of pelicans and flocks of snowy egret gently glide along the water to land on the island and take refuge for the night. One bird in flight is a graceful wonder to watch, but a flock of one species in flight together is a veritable ballet.
Seconds later, the flock extended their wings and feet to land on the rookery island. Zoom in to get a closer look!
We haven’t seen an eaglet yet in this bald eagle nest, but we got a close up look at two good looking parents in Rookery Bay in their waterfront home. Nesting season begins in December or January in Southwest Florida, and baby eaglets develop in the nest for about 128 days. During this time, the eagle pair will be territorial to protect their young.
Another bald eagle pair can be found in North Naples, Florida in a cluster of golf courses that includes Royal Poinciana, Wilderness, Hole in the Wall and Country Club of Naples. This cluster of courses provides a wide region of Audobon friendly land filled with lakes, creeks and woods. It’s a great place to view a wide variety of bird species near dawn and dusk.
“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.
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.
When my friend Susie accompanied me on a sunset cruise in southwest Florida, we were looking forward to seeing Eagles, Ospreys, Pelicans and Heron in Rookery Bay. We were not disappointed, as we observed all of those species and more. Our first wildlife observation was a pair of bald eagles and their eaglet. But just as the sun was beginning to set, Susie, who is a painter, leaned over and whispered to me, “Do you know what is my favorite part of this cruise?”