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Dear Friends, Ducks and Egrets

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

 This is me, in bird form, in Florida. Basking, that's all I wanted to do. To go from 22 and grey flannel skies to 72 and sunny: pure heaven.

There are so many reasons for an Ohioan to be excited about going to Florida in January. First, our lousy winter weather. The cold and snow clamped down at Thanksgiving and haven't let up yet. Sunny winter days? We've had a handful, but not nearly enough. The snow shovel is parked permanently at our front door. There's no sense in putting it in the garage, because most mornings we have to use it to get to the garage.

Second, the famous Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, at which Bill of the Birds has been featured as a speaker and field trip leader for the last four years or so, while I've held down the wintry fort here in Ohio. I've always been resigned to hunkering down in January, because that's his busiest travel month. This year, we decided to switch off. Had I known what fun it would be to speak and help lead a field trip there, I'd have been yanging about going years ago.  From my first phone conversations with festival pillars Barbara Hoelscher and Neta Harris, I was hooked and ready to rock.

Third, the people I might be able to meet face to face. I set about machinating to try to lure three Floridians whom I was dying to meet to the festival. And succeeded.

Fourth, fabulous birds and animals. Enough said.

About those Floridians. Two of them are Bill and Michele Webb. Bill comments here (although not quite as much as he does on Murr's blog) as the always insightful and gracious Digitalzen. And he blogs at Crackerboy, where you can read his account of our get-together. Of course, he can't restrain himself from plugging Murr yet again, even in a post that was ostensibly about ME.

See, I was sure in my bones that I would like Crackerman as much in person as I do online. Sometimes you just know. I have to say I knew that about Murre, too.

And I cackle to point out that for the time being I have it all over Murre, because I have spent Quality Time with Bill and Michele and she has, as yet, not. And I have the photos to prove it. We decided to take a MonkeyCam shot of the five of us, and Webb, having much the longest arms in the bunch, was elected to hold the Canon G-12. Because its screen can turn and swivel backward, you can point the camera at your own face and see what you're shooting! Oh!  For those who are not familiar with MonkeyCam, that's Bill of the Birds' name for a photo of the photographer taken by the photographee.  And I'm my own grampa.

Well, how do I work this? Webb took this shot without knowing it. Har!

We finally got it mostly right, Webb having to fold himself into the shot, being one tall drink of water. His wife Shel is constructed on a more human and reasonable scale. Durn Phoebe's going for TDOW status, too, and Liam is following closely behind. Sigh. Shel and I will have to drive minicars in the Shriner's parade when that happens.

Phoebe snapped off a few photos, including this one of the three of us Chimping in the Viera wetland marsh, wondering out loud whether we're looking at pennywort or sumpin' else growing down there in the water.   We ran through our considerable mentalbotanical catalogues and came up empty.

And we spent a completely lovely day together doing just such timeless and meaningful things. We looked at beautiful birds who flock to the Viera Wetlands to fish and feed and mate and party. Where else can you be assured of arms-length looks at American bitterns? (and often least bitterns?)          

Blue-winged teal glide by

and slice the air with sky-blue wings. What a nice detail to put on a duck, that big epaulet of dusty cerulean.

There are all manner of leggy waders like this suspicious little cattle egret

 this lovely snowy egret (taken in the rain on our first, aborted attempt to visit the wetlands--we got squalled out).

and his great egret cousin, afrill in aigrettes

These are the plumes, grown as breeding season approaches, that very nearly caused the great egret's extinction in the U.S. They looked so nice on ladies' hats that great and snowy egrets were shot right in their nesting colonies to supply the craze. And from the outrage of bird lovers everywhere grew the National Audubon Society, to oversimplify it quite a bit.

Like fox fur and coats, aigrettes look infinitely better on egrets. What a trophy this ol' boy would have been for the hat hunters! Now he can wear them with pride, and not have to worry about being rubbed out for his plumes.


Your pitiful complaints have left me no option but to comment here.

Publishing those unflattering photos of me for millions of people to see will avail you naught. I still love ya (and I've never said that to you-know-who, either -- at least, not yet....).

For the record, Shel and I could hardly have enjoyed ourselves more. Meeting you f2f at last was great, and those two great kids of yours were icing on the Zickdough. We're looking forward to next year -- and who knows? There are a lot of festivals between then and now.

Hugs from us both.

The festival in on my "bucket list" and perhaps 2012 will be the year.

ps: Please forgive the use of "great" twice in one sentence. I was overcome.

I love those white egrets, especially the "yellow slippers". We have pristine white here, but it is snow, not snowy egrets, drat!

Who, Bill, who?

Well, I know fun when I see it. And I know a lovefest when I'm invited to eavesdrop on it. So all I'll add is that, for some reason, I can't get enough of the pictures of Zick with a binocular bra taken from the rear. I don't mean Zick taken from the rear--I mean--oh dear--anyway, you're hot. For a short girl. That's what I mean.

What ARE you feeding those kids anyway?

Chick starter?

Your photos remind me of what I miss most, now that we live in the mountains. All those birds that flock to the coast and the wetlands. The diversity is truly amazing, and those cerulean blue wings just blow my mind! Great things happening at the waterways, that's for sure.

Wonderful shots ... even Bills funny one.
And man I love that anhinga stretch photo.

Definitely quality time.

Why go to Florida when there is Texas? We have more birds and more of them. And of course, we are on the Central Texas Flyway. And we have many birding festivals. Here are five species I took last Monday, a cold and very windy day.

And you can often find more warblers than that in one tree during migration.

And all those Mexican specialities.

So when can we expect you?

"What a nice detail to put on a duck."
I think I'll always remember them that way.

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