A cruise to Egg Rock Island hadn’t ever been on my radar screen before this trip, but today was our chance and we took it. An Audubon cruise to see and learn about Puffins, the cutest birds ever.
There were no more Puffins in Maine by 1901, and sewing machines were at fault. Ladies were so enamored of having feathers adorning their clothes and hats that the population of Puffins, and other birds, were affected. It wasn’t until the 1970s that attempts to repopulate the island began, and it took over 8 years to make progress. The winning combination involved bringing young chicks to the island, playing their mating calls, populating the island with Puffin decoys (back to that social thing), and even placing mirror boxes on the island to make them think there were more birds in residence and this would be the place for them. And it worked. There are 300 mated pairs on this island, and over 1000 in Maine as a whole. And these same conservation techniques are in use with other species of birds all over the world. This was a great experience on a wonderful day. We couldn’t have asked for more.
Things have slowed down at the rookery. There were a few ducklings as you see in the profile picture, but you also wee the water lilies that have completely taken over the water there. The decibel level is down with the few remaining babies calling out to be fed. The grassy slope we stand on to shoot has been overtaken by sandy looking spots, which I attempted to avoid in my flip flops but I still managed to come away with a fresh crop of fire ant bites. The great egrets were the only action to focus on while we were there, and I can’t say for sure if they are an adult and baby or two siblings practicing their poses. It’s a privilege to witness this cycle of life yet again. Nature truly amazes.
Off we went to the rookery again, this time sure that the egret chicks would be bobbing their little heads at us. But not only did we not see egret chicks, the nests that I knew had wood stork chicks were pretty quiet also. So it was this tricolor heron that captured my attention. I spent a lot of time trying to photograph them at my old house as they flitted around the shoreline of the pond out back. I missed way more shots than I managed to take, they were too quick for me. But this guy was walking the shoreline towards me, and though I was only 15 or so feet away he kept on coming, too close for my lens at times. For some reason that little voice in my head was saying, “Along came a spider and sat down beside her.’
The next day I saw great pictures of the chicks that I’m sure were taken at this same rookery. Midday is not the best time to shoot wildlife in general. And even at the zoo. You would think I would have learned that lesson by now. So thank you to this tricolor heron, my star of the show and savior of that trip to the rookery.
I had been taking pictures at the rookery for quite a while. The nests look like piles of sticks, the ones you can actually see that is, and I was quite sure that with all the little heads bobbing up and down I’d probably gotten a few clear shots that I’d be happy with. So I was a little bored, but my friend hadn’t ever gotten himself out to see the new little chicks before so he was still having fun. But I was wandering a bit, and then I saw him. A wood stork out of the corner of my eye. He was flying in with a nice piece of nesting material. But instead of making a beeline for the nest he looped around just enough for me to get my camera up and start shooting. No plan, no attempt at composition, just start shooting and attempt to get him in the shot. Later on when I got the SD card into the computer I looked at the pictures in order, always looking for the best shot of the chicks. There were several hundred pictures, and I was deleting as I went, so I was getting tired of the whole process when I got to these pictures. Yes, I’d gotten the wood stork. Well, most of him at least. And I cracked myself up when I saw them. So here they are, all my shots of this big, awkward, funny-looking-but-somehow-charming, wood stork.
Just a few seconds out of a photographer’s day, but most of the time that’s all it takes to make your day.
We made a special trip to the rookery the other day, sure that at least a few of the chicks would have hatched, and we were looking forward to seeing them. But we didn’t see any chicks this visit either, and I didn’t have the best attitude as I walked around and took pictures. Sometimes I forget that the point is to see what’s there and not try to second guess things ahead of time.
To be honest I was pouting to myself as I walked back to the car to put my tripod inside. But then I heard a noise. A rat-a-tat-tat that meant a woodpecker was nearby. I expected a more common little downey woodpecker, but I found a pileated woodpecker and got quite excited because they aren’t so common to see. I will always check to see what’s going on in the trees across from the rookery from now on. But when I looked at my pictures I was disappointed because all the pictures were blurry, that head of his was never still. But I did get one shot, which kind of saved the day for me.
Rushing Mother Nature rarely pays. At least when you are talking about nesting birds and stubbornly non-hatching eggs. You may arrive at a rookery, doesn’t matter which one, and find lots and lots of birds, looking like piles of feathers, just suspended in the shrubbery doing nothing. There may or may not be a mate standing beside them, but they are also doing nothing. Such was the situation the other day, and all this nothing-ness caused me to walk a little way down the block to a pond I knew of which sometimes has some birds visiting. That’s where I found this wood stork taking a bath. He splashed and he splashed, and then he dried himself off, only to start the process over again. Round two is what you are seeing in the profile picture. And I really don’t know if it was round two, how many more times did he do this before I took a peek?
There are many places you can go to take pictures, and usually it’s all up to Mother Nature whether the sunrise or sunset, or just the weather in general, will cooperate with you. But this time of year the rookeries are a sure bet. The birds will be there, possibly just sitting there, but they are there. Mother Nature sees to that. But one of these days we will hear the chicks calling out to be fed, and the real fun will begin. So we will keep going back.