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It’s baby season on Wildlife Drive and Bailey Tract

By Staff | Jul 5, 2017

Green heron chick in its nest near Indigo Trail. Jim Bennight

Nesting birds as well as a baby alligator can be seen along Wildlife Drive and Bailey Tract at J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland said that now is the best time to view the birds and their fledglings.

“There’s not a lot of people here to compete with,” Westland said.

Although there are many nests at the refuge, the two nesting birds that can be seen from plain view on the Indigo Trail are the yellow-crowned night heron and the green heron. The yellow-crowned night heron’s chicks were born in May near the Wildlife Education Boardwalk. One of the two fledged on June 27.

“Now that they’re fledging, they do what they call branching first – where they are strong enough to start venturing out of the nest. We still have that single bird in the nest, but it’s getting stronger and stronger,” Westland said.

Black-necked stilt chick. Jim Bennight

Now with its sibling out of the nest, the other chick won’t have to compete for its meals.

The green herons, which can be seen on the right side of the Wildlife Education Boardwalk, produced three chicks in May as well. The baby alligator which is a little less than two feet can be viewed near the pond at the beginning of Indigo Trail.

The cost for Wildlife Drive is $1 for vehicles, pedestrians and bikers.

On the Bailey Tract, which is also part of the refuge, black-necked stilt chicks can be spotted.

“They just fledged. This time of year is when this is all happening,” Westland said. “May 17 was when we saw her sitting on her nest and the babies were born.”

A yellow-crowned night heron feeds it chick a fiddler crab. Jim Bennight

For those who are looking for more information on the fledglings, Westland recommends stopping in at “Ding’s” Visitor & Education Center.

“The best thing people can do is to come into the Visitor & Education Center because we’re going to have the most updated information on where everything is. It’s open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. everyday. We’re trying to get people in the habit of coming in and asking. That’s why we have volunteers here,” she said.

As for viewing, Westland said it’s important to maintain a safe distance between all animals.

“We’re constantly telling people that if you change the wildlife’s behavior, (for example) if it’s feeding then it stops or it’s trying to move away from you or flies away, you have to have to stop what you’re doing and back away,” Westland said. “We want wildlife safe and we want the people safe.”

For more information on the refuge and its wildlife, visitors can download their “Discover Ding” app which is compatible for both iPhone and Android users.

Baby alligator near the beginning of Indigo Trail. ASHLEY GOODMAN

To send a baby gift, go to dingdarlingsociety.org/articles/were-having-babies.