Monday, January 12, 2009

My Florida journey

As I've mentioned in the past, in contrast to most everyone else I've ever met, especially in the area in which I'm located in the Northeast, I'm not a huge fan of central Florida. I will grant, I live in a place in which winters are long and cold, and we are on the receiving end of a lot of snow. If it's not a foot or more of accumulation, it's not even newsworthy. But I'm just going to out myself: I like snow. I like the winter. My wedding anniversay is January 8th; this says a lot about me. I love the stark, barren beauty of the winter and then appreciate the first buds of spring. I'm a seasons girl; I never want to live in a place where the weather is the same year round. Particularly central Florida, although the weather is not the same there year round. The weather there is either pleasant or it's excruciating. Not a lot of in between. Plus, there's altogether too many strip plazas in central Florida, and not enough sidewalks. Doesn't anybody walk anywhere down there? I'm thinking not, judging by the sheer number of golf carts that nearly mowed me down. But I digress; Florida obviously isn't bad, it just isn't for the Catholic Librarian.

However, one thing that I truly appreciate about Florida is the birds. I saw some fabulous birds there, things that I would never get to see in the Northeast. So, allow me to pictorially elaborate.
We went to the beach for lunch one day (a 70 mile round trip journey; this is fairly commonplace when we visit this region :) and I can't say I was looking forward to it. Being in the car that much makes the Catholic Librarian nauseous. But anyway, after lunch, we walked down to the beach. I saw some shorebirds there that simply made my day. The first, I expected. They were Laughing Gulls:
I know, I know, all gulls look the freaking same, don't they? These guys actually usually look identifiably different. When they're breeding, in the summer, they have dark hoods: Where I'm from, we see a lot of gulls, but not these Laughing Gulls, so I'm always happy to glimpse them. So, I'm standing on the beach, admiring the gulls, when my little eye spies some small birds down the shore line. A quick look in my binoculars seals the deal: these are birds that I've never seen before. Translation: I mumble a quick explanation to Mike and my in-laws and race down the shore line like a maniac, dodging pokey people in my wake. I get down near the bird flock, and attack with my binoculars. What I see are the cutest birds I've ever seen before in my *life*. They were Semipalmated Plovers: I mean, did you ever?! They were so cute, I actually squealed at the sight of their sheer adorableness. They were pecking at the sand, and whenever the tide rolled in, the whole flock of them would gather their feathers up, and scamper up the sand away from the water as fast as their skinny little legs would carry them. They were so cute I could hardly stand it.

Seriously. Who could resist this face? So, as you can tell, I loved the plovers. Suddenly, beneath me I sensed a scampering. I looked down to see a smaller bird hustling around me. Being an amateur birder, I'm easily overwhelmed by multiple new species. I just remember thinking to myself "is he different? I think he's different!!" I immediately (like the true nerd that I am) whipped out my little birding notebook to write down all his details for later identification. He was smaller and lighter, and was clearly on a mission in the sand. His skinny little legs were pumping overtime as he hustled about. He wasn't bothered by the tide like those wimpy plovers :) I eventually deduced that this bird was a Western Sandpiper:I liked him *very* well indeed. I think the plovers were my favorite though; I wanted to pick one up, kiss it, and tuck it into my purse for transportation home. I'm thinking airport security wouldn't have liked this too much.

Another bird that I see each time I go to central Florida are Sandhill Cranes. These are magnificently graceful large birds that actually mate for life.

When one is eating or otherwise distracted, his/her mate very stoicly keeps watch. They're truly beautiful birds to observe.

I also caught glimpses of a few wood warbler species. Yellow-rumped Warbler:

And the Palm Warbler:

These guys are tough to pin down. They're teeny tiny, and constantly bounce around in leafy trees, frustrating Catholic librarians everywhere and causing them to swear in a most unladylike manner. But your Catholic Librarian isn't easily dissuaded, so damn it, those birds were going to get in the purview of her binoculars. Truly, I enjoyed it. I'm working madly to hone my skills before the big spring migration, when once again you will be subjected to lengthy posts about birds.

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