Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) chick in its rookery nest.
999 Anastasia Boulevard, St. Augustine, Florida: 27 May 2013
part of the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park album
A haven for great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, tricolored herons, green herons, little blue herons, wood storks and roseate spoonbills, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park rookery is an amazing place to observe and photograph gregarious wading birds roosting and raising their young.
Although it may seem strange that 736 adults would build 463 nests to raise their 601 chicks (2013 count) above a swamp filled with hundreds of alligators, the birds choose this place knowing that they are safe from tree-climbing predators.
A boardwalk winds through the rookery swamp providing incredible views of the adult birds, chicks, eggs and nests at close range. Most sections of the wooden walkway border trees, providing an intimate perspective not usually available.
The zoo features many exhibits with exotic and in some cases endangered species — participating in the Species Survival Plan conservation project and conducting biological research — but I was most captivated by the rookery.
Based on the typical schedule, activity at the rookery has already begun for this year's season. From late April to early May, things usually get the most chaotic with loud, overlapping vocalizations and loads of chicks from every species hatched. This was my general experience on 27 May 2013.
First established in 1893 as the St. Augustine Alligator Farm at South Beach, the current location was built in 1920 after two fires within four months destroyed the original. I really enjoyed my visit and shot 721 photographs plus nine videos. Suffice it to say, more images from this shoot will be developed hereafter.