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Preening | by Jeff Milsteen
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Preening

Great White Egret in breeding plumage and colors.

 

I spent a couple of days at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida, this weekend. If you happen to be in the vicinity in the next two or three weeks and you want to have some great opportunities to photograph wood storks, great white egrets, snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills and other wading birds in various stages of breeding plumage, nest building, chick raising, etc., there is no better place than the Alligator Farm. This was my third trip down there for breeding season and the place is literally jam-packed with wild wading birds that come into the "lagoon" to nest amid the alligators. (Predators such as raccoons can't get to the nests because of the alligators below, although a few careless birds have lost tail feathers and more to a sneaky alligator.) Some birds are so close you can actually reach out and touch their nests (but don't!). The facility is very photographer friendly -- if you buy a photo pass you can get in at 8:00 a.m. (it doesn't open to the public until 9:00) and you can also stay later in the afternoon than the general public. If you are willing to "tip" the keeper $5, he or she will normally let you stay until almost dark. Despite strong storms rolling through this weekend, there were approximately 40 photographers waiting to get in at 8:00 on Sunday morning, including some who were participating in workshops. Be prepared for some serious "lens envy" because some of these folks come with their big guns, but you really don't need long lenses to get great photos here. If you are unfamiliar with the Alligator Farm's rookery and would like info, please feel free to email me.

  

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Taken on April 25, 2010