Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Yellow-Crowned Night Heron

From Chapman Field launch site, I paddled to Biscayne Bay under a cloudless sky and with a slight chill in the air. The early morning sun shined brightly on the hidden lake that was still glazed with fog as the 50-something air temperature began to rise and eventually settled in comfortable mid-70's range. Thankful to be on the water, I had little expectations as the low tide was two hours earlier and a strong (almost full moon) incoming tide made the current swift through the beautiful creek that connects the hidden lake to the open waters of the bay.

Despite the high levels of water, I saw many birds today on the western shoreline of Biscayne Bay. I may have seen a couple dozen species of birds (including a couple wood stork and an immature eagle flying above with the black vultures), but one bird in particular draws my attention and that is the yellow-crowned night heron. I dedicate this post to the night heron for a few reasons, one being that I think I spotted at least 30  of them today. A couple of them allowed me to approach within 20 feet while they rested on a mangrove root and basked in the morning sunlight.

I also pay tribute to the yellow-crowned night heron, one of my favorite birds because it is a relatively cooperative bird to photograph. They tend to be loners but many can be seen spread out along a low tide mudflat or oyster bed, giving each other a wide berth. It seems when one is on to a good spread of crustaceans, it doesn't mind so much that a canoe and photographer lurks near by. The juveniles are generally easier to approach for some reason.

Last, I dedicate this entry to the albino yellow-crowned night heron that I discovered on May 26, 2012 on Biscayne Bay. I have not seen it since last summer, but if it is still among mangroves of Biscayne's wild western shoreline, I may see it again soon.

To the yellow-crowned night heron, may it thrive forever in these waters of south Florida.

If you are in the area of Biscayne Bay February through May, please come visit the Dante Fascell Visitor Center of the Biscayne National Park where I will be exhibiting my photography. Mark your calendar for the full moon "meet the artist" reception, on  March 16 from 6-8 pm. Wine and cheese will be served!

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