A Final Look at the Santa Rosa Rookery

It’s probably not unusual, but knowing absolutely nothing about a heron rookery, I was surprised at how many different ages of chicks we saw, everything from this relatively old Great Egret chick

to these two chicks that were so young that I couldn’t tell whether they were Snowy or Great Egrets.

These three chicks seemed somewhere between the above.

Even more surprising, though, was that both Night Herons

and egrets were still bringing in sticks, suggesting that the egg-laying season was going to extend further into summer. Two visits aren’t nearly long enough to understand the birds nesting behavior, but, hopefully, I will learn more when I visit again next year.

It’s Tough Raising a Family

There’s a reason Snowy Egrets were nearly hunted to extinction — their elegant feathers. Although I have nearly as many Snowy Egret shots as Great Blue Heron shots stored on various hard drives, I can never resist another shot. I’ll admit, though, that I was a little shocked at just how shabby this parent looked at the Santa Rosa rookery.

Obviously raising a family

can take a toll on a parent’s looks.

No wonder then that this Snowy Egret seemed to ignore its offsprings’ pleadings,

retreated up the tree away from the chicks,

and looked longingly into the sky in hopes that its mate would soon return to tend to their offspring.

Cattle Egret at the Santa Rosa Rookery

The rookery in Santa Rosa is a fascinating place. The elegant parents flying overhead at times can seem almost angelic.

If the smells and constant noise don’t bring you back to earth, though, a close look a the fledglings waiting to be fed will.

It might be one thing to have a single fledgling to feed,

but this Cattle Egret had five or six to feed, and they were all clearly desperate for food. This one was so eager that it nearly took its parent’s

head off.

On a later visit, with no parent in sight these two chicks seemed to be looking for food from a sibling.

Two visits in two days isn’t nearly long enough to know what is actually going on in the rookery or figure out where they are getting the food to feed these fledglings in the middle of Santa Rosa, but it is long enough to raise new questions to consider in future visits.

Back to the Santa Rosa Rookery

Going to Santa Rosa after our trip to Bear River was an afterthought — a stop on the way back home. If birding had been better at Malheur and Bear River we might not have gotten there at all since we had to be back to see friends. As it turned out, though, birding-wise it was probably the highlight of the trip.

After last year’s quick trip to the Santa Rosa heron rookery, I wanted to return to see what was there this year. Night Herons are a favorite since I so seldom see them, and there were lots of adults

and chicks to see this year.

The easiest way to find chicks was to find an adult

then look nearby for chicks. The biggest challenge was getting the camera to isolate a chick and to focus where you wanted it to focus. It’s easy to see why the camera would have troubles deciding what to focus on — particularly since I didn’t realize there was actually three chicks in this shot until it was upon the computer monitor.

Luckily, there were lots of Night Heron fledglings so being patient was all it took to get a good shot.

Night Heron fledgling