Chicks (Snowy Egret)

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park is one of the premiere bird photography spots in the US (if not the world). When they built a “native swamp” habitat, stocked it with their overflow of alligators, and built a boardwalk right through the middle of it,  they inadvertently created one of the most productive, and certainly one of the most accessible, rookeries of wading birds in the world. Wood Storks; Tri-colored Herons, Green, and Little Blue Herons; Great Egrets and Snowy; Roseate Spoonbills, White and Glossy Ibis are all colonial nesters, and they all moved in to the trees and mangroves over the alligator infested waters…where, strangely enough, they feel safe. The alligators act as really viscous watch dogs and keep the real predators at bay.

The Alligator Farm itself is not your typical roadside alligator attraction. They have the only complete collection of alligators and crocodiles in the world, are members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and have a full time staff of trained professionals who care for the animals and the enclosures in a truly impressive way. 

And in spring the rookery is in full swing. It is impossible to describe and even this picture does not do it justice. You will note that the density of photographers is just under that of the birds!

The shot of the Snowy Egret mom feeding chicks was taken at about 20 feet with the 560mm equivalent zoom on the Canon SX20IS. The bird had nested just below boardwalk level, where the boardwalk curves back out over the water between the big trees and mangroves. Ideal.

F5.7 @ 1/320th @ ISO 125. Programmed auto. –1.3EV exposure compensation.

In Lightroom, just your basic added Clarity and Vibrance and Sharpen landscape preset.

And, for interest sake here is some video shot from the same spot. You can watch it in HD if you want.

3 Responses to “4/23/2010”

  1. 1 Wendy Hollands
    04/23/2010 at 6:56 am

    what an amazing catch!!! Excellent job!!

  2. 04/23/2010 at 7:33 am

    Amazing photos and video Stephen!!

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