Today I went to the rookery at Ocean City Welcome Center. Dispersed among the trees were hundreds of egrets, ibises, night herons, and other shore birds. It was a photographer’s paradise as one could look in almost any direction and click away.
Finally, the parent was able to fly away to look for more food. White Ibises eat insects and crustaceans that they find in the mud.
Yesterday the rookery next to the New Jersey Ocean City Welcome Center was teeming with egrets, herons, ibises, and many other smaller birds. The Great Egrets breeding season was at its peak as you can see from the following images.
The parent egret will eat the eel then regurgitate it into the bottom of the nest. Then the young chicks will be able to eat it.
Night heron babies are not among the cutest by any stretch! They do grow up to be very handsome adults, and require a lot of feeding for that. That’s why their parents come back every year to the rookery which is surrounded in all directions by an ocean brimming with crustaceans and fish.
In a nearby nest, a Black-crowned Night Heron juvenile was going through the same hunger pains.
The Ocean City Welcome Center was built as part of the Route 52 bridge that connects Ocean City, NJ to Somers Point, NJ. The 2.74 mi (4.41 km) bridge was built between 2006 and 2012, at a cost of $400 million.
A few days ago, I walked down to the bottom of the bridge. From the Welcome Center sidewalk, one would look down on the rookery with many trees where the herons, egrets, ibises and other birds nested. Few birds, if any, were nesting at the bottom. Most photographers stay on the pedestrian walk above the rookery.
There were ducks and night herons swimming and drinking from small depressions where rain water had accumulated.
When the weather is nice, the bridge is a very active place. Thousands of cars cross it every day, as do pedestrians (walkers and joggers) and cyclists. There is also an area in the middle of the above photo which is reserved for people who want to fish from the ocean.
With bright sunshine, white clouds on blue sky, bearable temperatures, and a cool breeze from time to time, it was a perfect day for photography. There were already about a dozen photographers with their massive long lenses pointed at various points of the rookery.
Except for the sleepy night herons, the birds were very active, flying in and out of the trees every minute or so. I ended up taking many more pictures of birds in flight than I had planned.
Last year I missed going to the rookery right next to the Ocean City Welcome Center in Cape May County at the southern end of New Jersey. Three days ago, I went there in mid season. The rookery was filled with many birds, some I had never seen before.
The night herons have built nests, incubated their eggs and some were busy raising the young ones. There were probably some nests well hidden behind tree branches and leaves, with eggs that had not hatched yet.
The night herons, as their names imply, are most active after dusk when their eyes serve them well. During the day they appear somnolent, almost lethargic, which of course is good for photography as they can hold their poses for a long time.
These herons migrate long distances to their nesting grounds in New Jersey, and they do look impressive in flight.
Two weeks ago, while the paparazzi were clustered around a nest with new chicks, I saw a Black-Crowned Night Heron fly to the marshes at low tide. These birds, as their name implies, normally feed in the evening, but this one was going to have lunch by pulling out worms from the sand.
The heron ate at least half a dozen worms.
At the rookery next to the Welcome Center at Ocean City, NJ, I saw a Little Blue Heron and its juvenile child. Their colors confused me at first. Juveniles are white, while adults are deep blue and purple. The rookery also had white egrets, both Great Egret and Snowy Egret, which added to my confusion.
The one way I could be sure was when parent and juvenile were together, as when the parent brought food home for the hungry juvenile.
In the first post for this series 11 days ago, I posted pictures of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron tending to her five eggs. Yesterday, I went back there and saw that the eggs have become young chicks covered with down, barely able to stand up. There were about twenty photographers gathered on the sidewalk above the nest, all vying to take pictures of the herons.
As I got there, the male heron had just landed with a twig in his beak. The female will take it and add it to the nest.
There were five eggs, but I only see three chicks. I wonder what happened.
Mother heron proceeded to feed the chicks.
Afterwards, she spread out her wings to shield her children from the hot sun. She kept her eyes closed, perhaps taking a well-deserved nap.
Following are pictures of the Ocean City Welcome Center and the bird paparazzi.
Black-crowned Night Herons are a major presence at the rookery next to the Welcome Center at Ocean City, NJ. These birds hunt for their food starting at dusk, and their eyes are one of their most noticeable features.
Despite their size these Herons are easily intimidated by the Red-winged Blackbird, a fierce defender of its territory. I saw a Blackbird chase a Heron into a tree.
Pursued by the Blackbird, the Heron tried to hide among the branches. Unfortunately, too many leaves shielded the small Blackbird from the camera.
The Daily Post Weekly Photo Challenge Look Up is at this link:
For photographers, it is always a good idea to look up when they are walking around taking pictures. In early May, that’s what I did while hiking in Garrapata State Park in Northern California, and saw a large band of Brown Pelicans flying high in the sky toward me. I just had enough time to capture 17 of them in the following photo.
Later in the month, I was concentrating on getting good shots of Night Herons in the rookery near Ocean City Welcome Center. Then I heard the sound of a motor, looked up and took the following shot.
Yesterday the rookery next to Ocean City Welcome Center was very busy, with photographers and birds. The former brought their long lenses firmly anchored to bulky tripods, or to study arms. The latter, especially the younger ones, were up to their natural feistiness.
I tried to shoot a few bird-in-flight pictures, but ended up discarding most of them. Below is one of the better images.
Two juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron did not let up on their play acting, and I saw that other young ones in nearby nests were behaving likewise. Perhaps it’s a part of their growing up, preparing themselves for an independent life in a few more weeks,
Yesterday at the rookery next to Ocean City Welcome Center I took many pictures of heron nests and their occupants, as well as of other birds flying and nesting in the area. However, I think you may enjoy looking at the ones below, which offer a unique perspective on sibling rivalry.
A pair of young Yellow-crowned Night Heron, they have grown up quite a bit since last week, were confronting each other, and the facial expressions of one of them are priceless.
The above reminds me of another photo I took last year, at around this same time.
The Night Heron hatchlings from last week are now wide awake, clamoring for attention and food. You can see them in the following photos and the two short videos at the end of this post.
I finally located a Black-crowned Night Heron nest.
The following video shows activities at a Yellow-crowned Night Heron nest.
Yesterday was the first time I used my camera to shoot a short video of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron tending to its babies in their nest. It is a little noisy, but here it is anyway so that you can see the interaction between mother and babies.
Going through my files from yesterday, I found one of an immature heron, probably a Black-crowned Night Heron.
And here’s one of an adult heron carrying a twig.
As predicted, the eggs in the Night Heron nests have begun to hatch. I went to the Ocean City Welcome Center today to look at them, and saw little balls of fur moving while the parents were busy preening or redecorating their nests.
At another nest, the male heron brought a twig back.
At yet another nest, no eggs had hatched.
There were many other birds around the herons. I only managed to get shots of Ibises and Great Egret.
Yesterday I went back to Ocean City Welcome Center to check on the Night Herons, both Yellow-Crowned and Black-Crowned kinds. They now have eggs, and this was the first time I was able to photograph bird eggs in their nests.
In case your are wondering, here’s a picture of Ocean City Welcome Center.
And here’s a shot of the place from where I’ve been photographing the Night Herons.
Finally, a photo of a Night Heron incubating.
Incubation lasts up to 25 days, so next week, there may be new hatchlings.
Last Sunday, as I watched the Night Herons at the Ocean City Welcome Center, I kept hearing loud noises as if someone was breaking branches. It turned out that it was the herons themselves. As you can see from the photo below, these herons have very sturdy, thick bills.
In fact, they are known as crab eaters, eating whole crabs by crushing them with their bills before swallowing them. With larger crabs, they grab them with their bill and then shake them violently to break them up into smaller pieces. Their bills are like those steel crab crackers that they have at restaurants that serve crabs.
A the start of breeding season, the herons have to build nests where the females will lay their eggs. They go around their neighborhood and use their bills to break dead branches and bring the pieces back to their nests.
The Welcome Center in Ocean City, NJ is right next to a rookery with many kinds of birds, including Yellow-crowned Night Herons. These herons are active during daylight hours, in contrast to the Black-crowned Night Heron that are nocturnal. The herons arrived a little over two weeks ago, but within a week they had been busy courting, choosing their partners, and building nests. I took the following photos last Sunday.
Meanwhile the Black-crowned Night Herons were starting to wake up.
Grackles are almost cartoonish birds because of their dark colors and yellow, seemingly malevolent eyes. They are everywhere, especially at places where they can forage for food. They eat everything from corn to worms. Sometimes they fly together in giant flocks which can inflict severe damage on corn fields. Three weeks ago, I saw a band of them at the Ocean City Welcome Center in New Jersey and shot the following photos.
Black-crowned Night Herons winter in Mexico and further South, coming North to breed when Spring comes. I was told by a fellow photographer that they migrate to Ocean City, NJ, about 20 miles South of Edwin B Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge where I usually go.
This morning I went to the Ocean City Welcome Center which opened 3 years ago and is becoming famous for its population of Black-crowned Night Heron. It had snowed the day before, but they were there, about two dozens of them, most perched on tree branches. They were half asleep since they are normally only active at night. I had never seen them until today, so these are my first shots of this kind of heron.