• Gina Torkos

Finding inspiration at the Rookery

Its not a difficult task for me to find inspiration. Most days I have to lasso in my enthusiasm and ideas before I head into the studio, or else nothing would get done. I have so many ideas about what I want to create that it sometimes feels overwhelming. For example, I have thousands of great photos on my computer of wading birds and yet every year I get excited for the nesting season at the local Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, in order to get more "inspired", which I do!

The Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.

March through June at the Rookery is prime time to see nesting birds in full breeding plumage. You can view these birds building their nests, see the eggs, and eventually watch the young baby birds hatch, feed, grow and learn to fly. The Rookery is just a few minutes from my house, and like a fellow photographer that I met during this last visit, I can stop for an hour on my way to home depot!

Its a little bit funny, in my younger years I chuckled at the "bird watchers", thinking that was what people did in retirement. However, now that I am more mature, nothing could be further from the truth. And nothing makes me more excited than to spot a new bird hanging out on my dock. grabbing my binoculars, or camera and my Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I love spending time in nature. Birds just fascinate me.

Since these birds are frequently the subject of my collages, I find I want to watch them and learn more about their habits and rituals. My collages are better when I really know my subjects. Last year I created this Roseate Spoonbill collage. I took the original reference photo at the Rookery, then used bits and pieces of other photos of Spoonbills to get just the right coloring and placement for my composition. I observed them feeding in the shallow waters for hours. I felt like I knew them by the time I finished this collage.

Paradise Found, 2017

Here are a few more Roseate Spoonbill photos from last week's visit to the Rookery, the first one caught my attention because of its great pose, the second was a beautiful juvenile Spoonbill, with it's paler pink coloring and a feathered head! Then the playful nature of the pair of spoonbills came out in the third image.

Here are a few photos of the Wood Stork. At one point in the 70's this bird became endangered, with a population of approx. 10,000. Things seem to be looking up as recent accounts show their population rising. The first photo is of a juvenile Wood Stork, the second is of an adult. They look a bit prehistoric to me, and I cheer on their increasing numbers!

Tri-Color Heron's (below) are another frequent visitor to our dock. I spotted this pair and watched them for a good 10 minutes as they cuddled up to each other. Breeding adult Tri-Colored Herons have small white plumes extending from the backs of their heads. They are colorful with their beautiful blue beaks, and small size.

A juvenile White Ibis is a patchwork of white and brown with a pink bill and legs. The adults, white with red beaks, are everywhere in our local waters, picking at the oyster and clam shells, but this little guy was a new sight for me. In this pose he looks a bit top heavy.

And finally, the Great Egret. One of the first collages I completed was of a great Egret. They continue to intrigue and inspire me with their beauty and grace. I adore the babies, with their awkward movements, spiky hair and big eyes. Really, what is not to love?

Keeping Watch, Collage, 2016

So you can see, I was able to capture a few of the incredible birds here in St. Augustine during my trip to the Rookery last week. I only wish I had more hours in the day, and more memory on my computer! Keep a look out for new collages featuring these inspirational creatures.

To learn more about these Florida wading birds, check out these sites:




And visit the Rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm


All images copyright Gina Torkos

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