Consider the Lilies/Venice Rookery

Rookery stretch

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? “And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.…” Matthew 6:27-29

We arrived at the Venice Rookery just a bit after noon. Although it was a little cool, the sun was shining on a clear blue-sky with those huge white fluffy clouds that remind you of how wonderfully marvelous it is to be alive and outside enjoying all that this earth has to offer. We hadn’t been to the Rookery before and were anxious to see what birds, if any, might be nesting there. Even though it is Florida, I was not sure that any birds would be raising chicks in the cool weather this season. Raising babies is a dicey business even when the weather is nice and warm.

But there was no reason to worry…not one bit. There were birds – Cormorants, Egrets, Herons, and Anhingas – all going about the business of nesting and raising chicks in the Rookery….just like they should be.

anhingaWhen we arrived, it was relatively quiet. There were a couple other people there and one of the locals ambled over to give us the scoop on the Rookery and the lay of the land (or lake in this case). The site which is on Annex Road in Venice, Florida is not very large – a few acres perhaps – and consists of a smallish pond with a brushy tree island in the middle. It is on this island that the birds come to nest.

Egret 2I was advised that the lake/island was man-made just for this purpose but I do not know for sure. Not that I question that the whole site was planned and developed by people but I did have some doubts. After all, it is not always a question of “if you build it, they will come.1

Egret displayConsider Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). It is a beautiful spot on earth – we’ve been twice and we did not see nary a Pelican there on either trip. It appears that the pelicans have abandoned the island that is part of the refuge that the birds had apparently used as a rookery for hundreds, maybe thousands, of years. There is a beautiful park with trails and a lovely boardwalk that gives a great view of the island in the Indian River….but the White Pelicans no longer nest there. We left the refuge and drove some five or so miles down the road along the Indian River and, as we crossed the causeway bridge, discovered an island filled with pelicans and nests….of course, not where anyone could stop and look and take photographs. So I assumed that the Pelicans had decided to start up a new rookery on another island notwithstanding the efforts of the parks service to protect them at the old rookery site. So, pretty much the birds go where the birds go.

anhinga 2But back to the Venice Rookery…..You can walk around the lake and see the Rookery from all sides or you can just take a seat on one of the many benches provided by the Audubon Society that leases the site/rookery from Sarasota County. Our impromptu guide apparently loves the place for he mentioned that he came every day to sit and watch/study the birds and I cannot think of a more relaxing and engrossing activity….wonderful way to spend your days.

heron and chickSo who doesn’t love babies? There were actual babies to be seen in the nests although I have a tendency to call all birds – adult and juvenile – “babies”.   Like everyone who comes to the site, I stopped immediately on the edge of the lake directly across from the island and started snapping pictures and excitedly saying, “Oh, look at the Great Blue Heron on the top….and the Anhingas on the tree on the left side….and wow, did you see that Great Egret displaying for his female companion?”. I was all over the place looking at the birds oohing and ahhing and trying to get just one more photograph. The birds were just so close and I was sure I’d get some great photos…well, I hoped so anyway. We walked around the lake – a relatively short and easy walk with benches all along the way so that there was always a place to take a moment and rest and watch.

My husband and I have a birding/hiking rule …… “If you come to a bench, sit on it”. We have found that benches can be few and far between sometimes on the trail and taking a moment to sit and be quiet can give the birds time to accept our presence in the area and come out of hiding….. possibly giving us a better view.

cormorantsSo, once I sort of calmed down a bit and we had checked out the rookery from all sides, we found a bench in a warm sunny spot and just let the atmosphere of the place surround us. As I sat listening to the chirping, cackling, peeping of the birds and feeling the warm sunshine on my face and back, I pondered the peacefulness and beauty of the place. Everything seemed so calm and serene. In a world filled with war and hate and all sorts of strife, the birds are oblivious to all that……just living out their lives, eating, sleeping, mating, nesting, raising their young…surviving. I was at once reminded of the “lilies of the field” that Jesus spoke of…….they do not work or spend their days worrying about things that they cannot change or prevent…they just live. And the lilies are beautiful and perfect in their situation – exactly where and when they should be at any given moment in time. Likewise, the birds in the Rookery seemed to be peacefully living out their lives with absolutely nothing to worry about.

pelicanBut all life has strife. An alligator also lives in the lake at the Rookery. He (or she) swam lazily near the island, I’m sure waiting patiently for some mishap or accident that would put a chick within his reach. I’m also sure his patience is rewarded at times….more than I like to think about. But the alligator is also a part of the “circle of life” and, perhaps, has babies too that need a parent’s help. Most animals are relatively helpless at birth and spend time in a nest (of sorts) close to a parent who provides food and stands guard providing sustenance, safety and security…but eventually, all babies mature and all must stand on their own. For all life on earth is precious and so very fleeting….time flows on…..the proverbial sands flowing too quickly through the hourglass.

We all must reconcile ourselves with this reality. We live, we struggle, we die…..and, although outward appearances show things to seemingly be peaceful and calm, there is always the struggle. It is what it is and it is what it will continue to be…..for as long as there is life on earth and as long as there are Egrets and Herons and Cormorants here at the Rookery.


  1. Field of Dreams; Director – Phil Alden Robinson; Producers – Lawrence Gordon & Charles Gordon; Screenplay – Phil Alden Robinson; Based on the book, Shoeless Joe by WP Kinsella; Universal Pictures/TriStar Pictures; April 21, 1989; USA
  2. Bible, New Testament, King James Version (KJV), Matthew 6:27-29.

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