Several years ago I discovered the Santa Rosa Rookery through Facebook entries, and I’ve tried to visit every time we’ve been in Santa Rosa during nesting season. I thought that we might be too late to see anything on our recent visit, but I still drove over while Leslie and Paul were doing something else.
As it turned out, most of the birds seemed to have already hatched and left the rookery, but there were still enough birds nesting that I spent over an hour trying to capture some shots.
In previous years I tended to focus on the Night Herons, but I didn’t see a single Night Heron until the end of this visit. The two juvenile night herons I saw weren’t even in the two main trees; they were on an adjacent tree.
The one on the left was certainly the more adventurous of the two and even spread its wings as if it was going to fly over to the other tree, but it never actually flew. I only saw one adult Night Heron, and it was landing at the top of one of the two main trees, not where these juveniles were.
I was surprised that the Night Heron landed there because I’d just spent twenty minutes or so looking for Night Heron chicks and hadn’t seen any (which apparently doesn’t mean that there weren’t any there). On previous visits, the Night Herons, Great Herons, and Snowy Egrets far outnumbered the Cattle Egret, but the opposite seemed true on this visit.
I’ll have to admit that I have a hard time deciding whether a chick is a Great Egret, a Snowy Egret, or a Cattle Egret, but it’s easy to tell when there’s an adult Cattle Egret in the nest like this.
These four chicks look a lot like those in the above shot and they were lower in the tree than Great Egret chicks I could positively identify, so I’m assuming these were Cattle Egret juveniles (particularly since there is an orange cast to the one trying to fly).
I’m less sure that these even younger chicks are Cattle Egret, but they don’t look like Great Egret chicks to me and I mostly saw adult Cattle Egret landing and flying nearby.
I’ve seen several rookeries since I started birding, but the Santa Rosa Rookery is the only one where I’ve seen such an amazing variety of herons nesting together.