De Blauwe Kamer, Lower Rhine valley, The Netherlands, 23 June 2013

30 June 2013 -  

Spoonbills first nested at the Blauwe Kamer about 10 years ago and the colony is now well-established in low willows, where over 20 pairs share space with smaller numbers of Cormorants and Grey Herons. They are now regularly seen up and down the valley, commuting purposely between the colony and feeding sites, and wading in the shallows of suitable lagoons and lakes.

An afternoon visit to the colony reveals a scene of peaceful activity. Most of the young are well-grown or fledged and young Spoonbills outnumber the adults at least two to one. Ten nests are still active and a group of a dozen youngsters are resting on the nearby lagoon. The young birds are like cuddly-toy versions of the adults, also pure white, but appearing smaller, rounder and less angular, with thicker, shorter, softer looking legs and bills which are pinkish or yellowish-grey in colour. The bills and legs of the adults are black, the bill having a yellow patch at the tip of the upper mandible. The young birds also have black tips to the flight feathers on their wings, and lack the head plumes and bare chin patches of the adults. Several youngsters are clambering through the willows around the nests, teetering clumsily on the branches, using outstretched wings for balance.

The Cormorants look spectacular and reptilian through the scope, the iridescent bronze on the wing feathers shimmering in the dull sunlight, the head and neck flashing metallic green and purple when they move. The young Cormorants are still small and only occasionally visible under the brooding adults. A late nest of Herons has fledged at last. Three adults are taking siestas on their nests and three fully grown juveniles are resting in the shallows.

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