Thursday, April 25, 2019

The unabandoned rookery

My post in late February  "A small heron rookery" described the damage done to the nest trees in the local rookery by Hurricane Irma, which struck in September, 2017. This was followed by the intentional removal of many trees along the adjacent canal, as some had been blown over to partially obstruct it and others had grown out over the water. A major portion of the rookery, an area which previously was a favored nesting site by 6-8 pairs of Yellow-crowned Night-Herons, had been clear-cut by the regional water management authority.

This particular tree was partially uprooted by the hurricane and extended well out into the water of the storm-water drainage canal. In April of 2018, A pair interacted on the partially submerged branches of the fallen tree:

Yellow-crowned Night-Herons 08-20180314

Their nest was placed rather precariously over the water on the horizontal trunk:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest used 20180601

The next day,  an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was sitting low on the nest:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron incubating position 12 02-20180414

I subsequently photographed eggs in the nest, but had to fly back out to Illinois to close the sale of our condo. A few weeks later I returned to Florida and found only a single immature heron in the rookery. Here it was in early July, 2018:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron immature 01-20180703

In August, 2018 it had begun to molt into adult plumage:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron sub-adult immature 20180808

I cannot say for sure that it is the same bird, but this is a sub-adult roosting very close to the nest site in the condemned tree, marked for removal (October 18, 2018):

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in condemned nest tree 2-20181013

After the cutting, only one pair out of the several night-herons which had gathered in the damaged area stayed on and built a nest, as documented in my earlier post. A single immature bird remained to roost next to the stump of the only tree which held a nest in the previous spring. Was it the same bird? Did it hatch from the nest in the missing tree? Here it is in December, 2018. Note that its head is streaked, a feature which may persist into its second year of life:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron at clear-cut edge 2-20181202
For weeks, it was the only immature bird in the rookery, seen here on February 12, 2019:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 20190212

As spring approaches, adults in breeding condition develop head and back (occipital and scapular) plumes. Their heads turn clear yellow and their legs become red:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron 20190306

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron courtship 070756AM 20190225

This takes us up to the present. Inexplicably, on March 9, 2019,
the pair which was building the nest (as documented in my earlier post) simply disappeared. Suddenly the rookery was abandoned-- almost. The sub-adult was reliably present every day, roosting next to the site formerly occupied by the nest tree. Then it also disappeared for a few days and I concluded that the rookery had indeed been abandoned.

However, on April 16, the (same?) sub-adult reappeared. This time it was accompanied by an adult in bright breeding plumage which performed a courtship display!

Note the absence of head plumes on the female:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron sub-adult 20190416

The male has full plumes and red legs:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron adult male 02-20190416

He displayed to the somber female, and also started carrying in nesting material to an area of the rookery which was left undamaged:

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron  male display 04-20190416

As a bonus, a bonded pair of Green Herons appeared. Although I failed to obtain a photo of the action, a third one showed up and was chased away. Luckily, it landed in a small tree right next to me. This is the interloper. Note yellow legs as opposed to the members of the pair, which were in breeding plumage and had red legs. The emerging leaves of the Mahogany tree enhanced this portrait:

Green Heron 03-20190416

Since I plan to be away for week after Easter, I have prepared this in advance. A few other images from the past few days--

Horned Bladderwort emerged in the lakeside marsh. This is a carnivorous plant which traps small insects and other tiny organisms, digesting them in its "bladders," underwater tubes which snap open and suck in the prey. This allows it to survive where the environment is poor in nutrition. Its foliage and seeds are poisonous:

Horned Bladderwort 03-20190413

Interestingly, another species of bladderwort, Little Floating Bladderwort, occupied the same patch of shallow open water:

Little Floating Bladderwort 01-20190413

The sky was pink before sunrise in the ATV-scarred north Wet Prairie:

North Wet Prairie before sunrise 20190409

A Solitary Sandpiper cast a nice reflection as it foraged in the tracks left by the "wreckreational vehicles:"

Solitary Sandpiper 04-20190413

At a high spot in the wetlands, the pumpkin-like fruit of a wild exotic Surinam Cherry brightened the scene:

Pumpkin Tree 20190408

Pumpkin Tree 2-20190408

= = =  = = =  = = = =  = = = = =

Linking to Misty's  CAMERA CRITTERS,

Linking to Eileen's SATURDAY'S CRITTERS,

Linking to SKYWATCH FRIDAY by Yogi, Sylvia and Sandy


Linking to BirdD'Pot by Anni

Linking to Our World Tuesday by Lady Fi

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday by Stewart

Linking to Wordless Wednesday (on Tuesday) by NC Sue

Linking to ALL SEASONS by Jesh


Please visit the links to all these memes to see some excellent photos on display



  1. I've never seen anything nibbling on those pumpkin fruit. Be nice for one invasive species to have a good side.

  2. Interesting to see the ebb and flow of the heron population. Pretty sky shot. Have a great weekend!

  3. Hello, it is neat seeing the YC Night Heron rookery. Your photos are awesome. Pretty flowers and sky shot. Great post. Happy weekend!

  4. What amazing poses from those Night Herons! You take the best photos!

  5. Gorgeous birds! I hope they thrive. Nature has been taking a beating.

  6. I love seeing the display plumage of the yellow crowned night heron! HOPE YOU'RE FEELING BETTER TODAY.

    Once again, thanks for stopping by I'd Rather B Birdin' and linking in with us birders. I appreciate your loyalty and sharing.

  7. I have to tell you this is the best story I've read in a long time - beautiful images too!

  8. Aren't they beautiful! Wonderful post.
    Thanks for sharing at

  9. Such beautiful birds. You are a wonderful photographer.

    Worth a Thousand Words

  10. Interesting post - it would be great to be able to tell birds apart at times without having to colour band them! If this is a story of the same bird, the its a determined bird indeed!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

  11. These birds are so elegant looking! The males even more than the females:):) Am glad I'm not a bird. To have your nest is such an off balance place would be a constant hazard to me! Many thanks for this post, Ken! Only ... you forgot to send All Seasons a thumbnail image! Please, could you send it before Friday noon, Thanks so much! Junieper/Jesh

  12. Beautiful photos of birds. I also enjoyed seeing the picture of their habitat. Such a lovely place.
    My post features tulip fields in Mt. Vernon, Washington.

  13. Many thanks for following up with your thumbnail, Ken have a great week:)

  14. I have never seen that kind of heron before!


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