I finally got an opportunity to visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm last month. Jess Yarnell and I stopped by there after we spent a couple of hours at the Least Tern colony at Fort Mantanzas. The Farm is a 2 hour drive from the house, so it isn’t a place that I can visit every weekend, especially with today’s gas prices. But a ride in Jess’ Prius makes it much more affordable along with the combination of a couple of hours at the Least Tern colony.
I liked how close you can get to the nests, just as you can at Gatorland. Both rookeries are similar and each have their pluses and minuses. The nice thing about my visit this day was that it was overcast. This allowed me to take shots in both directions on the boardwalk without concern about the sunlight. Nice even sunlight is preferred at both rookeries to avoid the harsh shadows of the day.
This image of a preening Snowy Egret was one of my favorites. I liked how I was able to capture the feather details. Click an image to view larger.
Of course what rookery would be complete without the antics of the Tricolored Herons? This juvenile posed very nicely for me.
My favorite image of the day has to be this Tricolored Heron nest. The chick is only a few hours old, perhaps hatched the previous evening. You can see the egg tooth of his brother as the shell has an opening and the chick is beginning to come out. I would have loved to have stayed and watched until hatching was complete, but it was unbearably hot that day, even without the direct sunlight. Plus, a rookery has a distinct odor to it late in the breeding season that simply overwhelms on a hot muggy day.
Probably the best part of the Farm when compared to Gatorland is the number of Roseate Spoonbills nesting there. The Spoonbills do visit Gatorland and I believe they have nested there, but they nest very near the boardwalk at the Farm. This makes for great opportunities for the photographers.
I’ll look forward to visiting the Farm next Spring!