The Wading Bird Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is a wonderful place to get up and personal with nesting wildlife.
When I had visited in early December, the marsh was a ghost town. With just the alligators hissing in the muddy waters, I thought that surely nothing would come to be in spring.
But I was proved wrong. Returning during the Floridas Birding and Photo Fest at the end of April for a photography workshop I walked around the board walk and my breath was taken away. The trees were filled with birds from high to low, near and far. Many were raising their young, and others were starting their nesting rituals.
The rookery is home to Great egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored herons, Blue herons, Woodstorks, and Roseate Spoonbills.
There was a pair of young Great egret chicks sitting in the nest, impatient for food. Clacking their bills together they wrangled around like siblings do, fighting for dominance.
At one point they snap their beaks together.
I could have spent all day watching the rookery with all of the drama that unfolded in front of me. The wading rookery provides wildlife photographers a unique opportunity to get closer to these birds than ever possible. In fact, there was one bird that it was so close to the boardwalk, I used my iPhone to take a capture.
The Alligator Farm offers a Photography Membership which allows you early entry before opening and late stays after closing. Good for the months of March through July, photographers can enter at 8:00 am and stay until sunset. To enter early, one has to be at a red door near the main entrance before 8:00 a.m. The guard opens the door once and lets in who is waiting outside. The pass needs to be on your person for presentation after closing hours to prove you’re a photography member.
The wading rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm is truly a spectacular place to visit. Bring your camera and lots of space on your memory card.