|Wood Stork at Bluff Lake|
Don’t be fooled by the wide open mouth—the Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) perched in the cypress tree in the photo (taken early this month at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge) was simply cooling off, not making noise. But why was it here to begin with? Wood Storks don’t nest at this wildlife refuge, but, during the summer and early fall, they disperse northward from their breeding grounds in Mexico, South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Flocks are seen regularly in Mississippi during this time. In fact, a few days after I photographed this perched stork, I saw a flock of twelve soaring over MSU’s campus.
|Wood Stork flock over MSU|
It’s a little hard to see detail in this photo, but the outstretched necks of the storks are evident. Herons and egrets usually fold their necks in when they fly. The ungainly appearance of Wood Storks belies their grace in the air. You really have to see a flock in action to appreciate it. These particular individuals circled around several times, which made me think that they might have been checking out a small pond on campus. They never landed, though.
Storks nest very early in the year—late winter to spring. Herons and egrets generally nest much later, so in August and September, the juveniles are busy maturing and preparing to disperse or migrate. Some species, such as the Great Egret (Ardea alba) will usually remain in an area like Noxubee NWR year-round, but others, like the Snowy Egret (Egretta thula), Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), and Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea), typically migrate farther south for the winter.
|White Ibises at Bluff Lake (didn't get the memo to not wear white after Labor Day)|
Like Wood Storks, White Ibises (Eudocimus albus) fly with their necks extended. Their snowy plumage and decurved bills make them look somewhat similar to Wood Storks, but they are not in the same taxonomic family. They often nest with herons and egrets in rookeries. The ibises in the photo were also seen at Noxubee NWR, where they foraged methodically for invertebrates in the mud and weeds of Bluff Lake. They must have been at it for a while; their necks were covered in mud.
|Common Gallinule at Loakfoma Lake|
Finally, a video showing a Purple Gallinule in action! This was taken a couple of years ago at Noxubee NWR, but it seemed like an appropriate way to conclude this discussion. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for interesting wildlife.