Home, Sweet Nest

Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax)

I recently had occasion to stop by a marina I rarely visit: one less than two miles from my home. Stepping out of my car, I noticed a Black-crowned Night Heron patrolling the edge of a tree-dense circle in the midst of a parking area. My camera happened to be at hand, so I took advantage of the opportunity to catch a photo of a bird I rarely see in mid-day.

As I watched, the bird pulled a fallen twig out of the grass, and I realized it was engaged in stick-gathering.

Clearly aware of my presence, it gave me an appraising look, then flew up into one of the large live oaks in the midst of the parking lot.

The bird had been at work for some time; this certainly wasn’t its first stick. I watched as it tucked the new stick into its nest,

and then hopped to a nearby branch to admire its handiwork.

At that point, the sound of birds in the treetops — and the amount of droppings on the ground — made clear the existence of a true rookery. The trees were filled with nests, the squawking of hungry youngsters, and the occasional sight of a seemingly exhausted parent.

Trying to get a glimpse of birds high in leafy live oaks isn’t easy, but I was pleased with this image of two youngsters in a different nest.

Black-crowned Night Herons will nest among other birds, and these weren’t the only residents of the live oaks. Great Egret chicks were scattered among the herons: their nests fewer, but no less noisy.

Great Egret chicks (Ardea alba)

Black-crowned Night Heron chicks leave the nest at about four weeks, and Great Egret chicks at four to six weeks. The size and behavior of these youngsters suggests they’re approaching that time; the number of birds still gathering sticks suggests there may be opportunities to see even younger birds developing in this urban rookery.

Comments always are welcome.

Ordering à la Carte

When avians dine out, the ponds, sloughs, and prairies of the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge offer a little something for everyone.

Sometimes the choices seem surprising, as when this Boat-tailed Grackle selected a nice crawfish as an appetizer.

Herons and egrets love their fish, of course, and this Great Egret (Ardea alba) found an especially nice one: so fresh that its tail still is flapping in protest against finding itself on the menu.

Without herring to enjoy, this Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) has adapted, landing a small crab for its meal. Like the Whooping Cranes that also feed on crabs, this gull is a winter visitor; by summer, it will have flown northward.

Although omnivorous, these American Coots (Fulica americana) often choose to feed on pondweeds, sedges, and grasses along the bank.

Other dabblers, like this Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) are willing to go off-menu for their wintertime meal.

Despite the abundance of treats, savvy birders know to bring their own snacks from home. There’s no guarantee these birds would be willing to share.


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It’s the Early Bird, With Its Catch

This Great Egret (Ardea alba) probably wouldn’t have rejected the proverbial early bird’s worm as a snack, but it was morning at Brazos Bend, and time to search for something a little more substantial.

After scanning the skies for several minutes, the egret began scrutinizing the surrounding water with that wonderful intensity common to wading birds.

Predictably, its strike was fast and unpredictable: so much so that I nearly missed it.  Egrets prefer fish, but within the thick foliage a frog, snake, crawfish, or shrimp might have been its target.

Given the strength of its bill and the speed of its attack, the bird’s success was understandable, although the prey it pulled from the water wasn’t easy to identify.

No matter. The bird seemed pleased with its catch, and I was more than pleased to have caught its image in the early morning light.


Comments always are welcome.