ED: When wildlife photographer, Joe Gliozzo headed to birdwatching heaven at Cape May's Heislersville Wildlife Management Area on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Bay, he was expecting to find their famous raptors: bald eagles, peregrine falcons, Coopers and sharp-shinned hawks, or maybe some of shore birds who rest in the salt marshes on their annual migration. What he did not expect was a spunky pink spoonbill, who obviously took a wrong turn, making itself at home in a bald eagle nest!
Winds From the East Mean A Change in Plans
My plan for the day was to head down to the Cape May Hawk Watch to look for the migrating hawks heading south for the winter. By noon we knew there wasn’t going to be much action since winds were from the northeast and very light. Typically, a northwest wind is preferred along with other factors to drive them towards the coast and low down for photo opportunities.
Surprise at Cape May's Heislerville Wildlife Management Area
Joined by fellow photographers, Donna Mcknight and Randy DeRousse, I decided to head to Heislerville Wildlife Management Area in Heislerville, which was about 45 minutes away with hopes of finding the roseate spoonbill that’s been there for the past week. With Hurricane Harvey hitting Texas about 2 weeks ago, the thought was that this bird flew here to escape the heavy winds and rain but looking into this further I found that a roseate spoonbill was seen and photographed July 22nd on Sedge Island in Island Beach State Park, Ocean County. Could this be the same one or possibly another that has come to visit us.
Lost Roseate Spoonbill! A Hint & A Closer Look
When we arrived at Heislerville we immediately knew that we wouldn’t have to search long for the bird since we were greeted there by others standing on the shore of the north impoundment. With cameras set up and scopes in hand, everyone was staring out to the far end of the lake. There, behind the trees on a distant rookery, was the roseate spoonbill we had come to see. Problem here was that it was almost impossible to get a decent photograph of the bird with so much ground and water between us and trees blocking the view but as one fellow photographer drove by he gave us some valuable information, that being that there was another parking area up ahead with an access trail that would bring us closer to our subject.
Are Those Birds Canoodling?
After making our way over there we found a spot along the shoreline that gave us an unobstructed view of our subject. There we were witness to some very interesting behavior. The spoonbill at first was perched amongst several great egrets and was very peaceful looking when suddenly it turned and jumped up to the next branch above and almost immediately started to canoodle with one of the egrets. It was incredible to witness this as it seemed as if the resident birds were more than welcoming the visitor into their home.
Brave or Crazy? Spoonbill in the Eagles nest
We also witnessed the spoonbill jump up and onto a nearby bald eagle nest. What was really entertaining was watching it rearrange some of the branches as if it was planning on making this its permanent home. Branch by branch it carefully placed them in exact spots as to accommodate its liking.
A Bald Eagle's Last look
Around 6:30 the sun began to set and the rookery faded into shadows making photographing any longer impossible. So we just watched and observed a few more minutes before heading home back north. Oh, and on our way out of the area we passed one of the resident bald eagles perched in a tree cooling himself off and looking like he was saying goodbye to us. All in all a very satisfying day!
About the Contributor
Joe Gliozzo is a Wall Street trader by day and wildlife photographer by passion. He lives in New Jersey with his family and is frequent contributor to Destination: Wildlife