I count birds at the Alligator Farm with several other volunteers on a weekly basis during breeding season. It is the high point of my week to spend time with the birds and my fellow bird counters. Every week we count roseate spoonbills and wood storks because they are a threatened species. Once a month we count 7 species (great egrets, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, little blue herons, tri-colored herons, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills). We always look for green herons. Today was our last full count for the season. The tri-colored heron chicks were particularly fun to watch. I saw a pair chase a parent around the rookery for some food. I was petrified that one would fall and become an alligator snack, but nothing bad happened on my watch.
We will count spoonbills and wood storks for a few more weeks and then the season ends for counting. There will be a few stragglers.
The process can be rewarding when you watch the chicks grow up and drive their parents crazy. It can be heartbreaking when you notice that chicks have disappeared from the nest and did not make it. All in all, the birds are more successful raising their chicks at the Alligator Farm with the alligators roaming around at the base of the trees than elsewhere or they would not nest here. Raccoons are particularly tough predators for these birds and the alligators keep them from getting to the nests. Any chick that falls before being able to fly becomes alligator food. But, more chicks survive in this environment than elsewhere or they would not keep coming back to nest here in spite of all the people that visit. It is an amazing experience and I recommend a visit to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine during nesting season to experience these birds up close and personal.