Flybys

Tampa Bay is only twelve feet deep on average. Its calm, turquoise, and shallow water is home to many shore birds. It is the flyway for many species that migrate. This tidal basin is always different. In its bayou, sloughs, and mangroves can be seen the ubiquitous species—the birder taking in the luscious plenty around here.

Even though Pinellas is the most densely populated county in Florida, there are still some opportunities to see what nature must have looked like before humans. Several nature preserves have board walks among the mangroves, through live oak and pine forests, and along beaches.

I am not a birder so I didn’t bring any identification books and always forget to bring my binoculars out of the glove box. Even then, there are so many dramatic and exotic birds that it is impossible not to notice them.

Along almost any beach are many varieties of sea gulls and pelicans who dive and swoop for fish. Pelicans sound like a large rock falling from the sky when they land on the water. They seem to drop from forty feet up with a plop like they forgot how to fly.

Smaller birds that look like willets, sandpipers, and avocets peck for snails and worms. Each has a bill adapted to the type of food they hunt and long skinny legs that give that them that distinctive bird-like walk.

There is rarely a time when birds are not in sight. Most are quite acclimated to humans so they will let you get very close. Still, I am always disturbed, as I was last week, when I saw two women feeding the seagulls.

In the mangroves there are varieties of herons, egrets, and cranes. These tall waders are shy and cause viewers excitement because they are large and graceful. Sometimes they get a pink tinge from their diet of, I assume, shrimp. Yesterday, as we were kayaking, we saw cormorants drying their wings and using their feet to push off their weighty bodies which have bones like mammals rather than the hollow ones of most birds.

We’ve seen parrots at the nearby marina. They are noisy and so colorful when they fly that they demand admiration. The palms there droop as they cluster heavily on the slick leaves. Not native to Florida, it is believed that they were released from domestic captivity.

Nesting ospreys and even eagles swoop down, catch a fish in their talons and fly to a tree looking like a bomber ready to drop a torpedo.

Sand hill cranes with their coral and pinkish tan coloring and long elegant feathers were feasting on bugs in a suburban neighborhood. When they stand still, they look  three foot lawn ornaments. They have big feathers that fold extravagantly over their backs and seem to invite you to touch.

We snowbirds and the Florida birds both enjoy the easy living here.


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2 responses to “Flybys”

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  1. Carolyn says:

    When we were in Florida a couple of weeks ago, the neighbors went fishing every day. When they got back they cleaned the fish and tossed the scraps to the birds, both land and sea. A fascinating feedy frenzy ensued and everyone got fed!

  2. Judy says:

    I love this entry. It is beautiful, and excites me about spring coming in Ohio. This morning I woke up to the sound of birds singing – despite the fact that there is deep snow on the ground. They KNOW!!