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Peace on Tybee Island

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

It's never easy to leave home, especially when Bill's also called away, but I have to say it's getting easier for me. Phoebe, at 16, has it all under control. She keeps the house, feeds the animals, whips Liam into line on time, fixes the dinners that I leave for her, drives her  brother where he needs to be. And with her independence and tied-together usefulness goes a freedom I haven't felt in a decade and a half. I can leave. And she's got my back.

So I travel now in a pure way, an unruffled, unworried, joyous way, and it feels divine.

I get to go where camellias are in full mid-winter bloom (Tybee I and Savannah), bringing me back to my childhood in Richmond. Oh, to be able to grow this stunning member of the tea family in Ohio. Don't know if global warming's going to accomplish that for me in my lifetime, but I'm hopeful. ;) Hey, might as well roll with it.

I had loads of fun on this trip, just rolling with and in whatever it gave me. Sometimes the seeming calamities (rescheduling, snow in a usually snowless place) turned out to be huge blessings. I got to shoot pictures of gulls and kids and a dog on the beach. I got to watch snow falling on salt water.

I got personal with ring-billed gulls.

A young redtail (probably born in spring 2012) circled over our car at the Savannah Dredge Spoil, and, asking the driver to stop, I burst out of the car and started clicking. I have learned to take full advantage of close birds in good light.

You beautiful thing. I always talk to birds as I shoot, sounding, I'm sure, like a fashion photographer trying to get the best out of a model.

The young hawk cupped its wings and floated right over, making tight circles over this woman with her camera. Did it know what I wanted, which was to bask in its beauty? It seemed to.

I love this shot, the hawk peeking over the edge of its wing, every bar, every feather edging perfect, perfect. Newly minted.

Oh my goodness.


 Did a similar clamber-out-of-the-car maneuver with some turkey vultures. I'm always looking to improve my library of turkey vulture shots. It's my totem bird, after all...I need good pictures of it.

Look at that reflective underwing! Molten pewter.

 One of the best things I saw on this trip was an osprey, at a great distance, plunging into a quiet backwater on Tybee I., Georgia. It came up with something flashing silver in its talons. Got a fish!
To my puzzlement, it circled and circled, bearing the fish. Why wasn't it landing? As I watched, I became more and more curious, and I got the group to focus on it to try to figure out what it was up to. So we're all watching this bird circle heavily with its prey, and we're speculating that maybe it's having trouble carrying it or subduing it. Finally it heads for a large pine. It's going to land.

As we watch, it swings up its feet to make the landing, and a fish flies straight out of its grip and into the woods below! Oh no! It lost its meal!

But then it lands and I get the scope on it and darned if it doesn't still have a fish in its talons! It had made a lucky strike, grabbing a fish in each foot. No wonder it couldn't land!

These things happen. It's embarrassing, but you can't land with a fish in each fist. You have to drop one.

By the time I got these photos (by lucky coincidence, it was perched right over the exit road as we left), he had consumed most of the remaining fish. You can tell it's a male by its almost unmarked breast. I'd never seen an osprey get two fish at once, though I know it happens, and I was so happy we were all watching when this bird had to jettison one of them. You don't see that every day.

I'll leave you with some serenity, the kind you can only get with  sea and shore.

My view on Tybee. I ran on this beach each morning. Those were my favorite times.

Another Tybee sunrise. How divine, to open the blinds and see this.

 A GOS birder takes in the scene off a quiet dock.

And so do I.

Good morning, Marsh. You're smelling a little funky, but I love it. The air is soft and warm on my bare arms. There's Tybee Light in the background.

When you can't tell water from sky, that's a special kind of peace. I wish it for you.

Grateful, that's all, that I get to pull up stakes and go every now and then, and call it work. I don't take a second of it for granted. That trip recharged my batteries, cut a couple of particularly cruel weeks out of my winter. I could get used to Tybee in January. I know I'll go back.

My deepest gratitude to the Georgia Ornithological Society for bringing me down to this piece of heaven for being so warm and gracious; to Coastal Georgia Audubon for taking me up on my offer to speak to them, too, and showing me Jekyll Island; and to the Virginia Beach Winter Wildlife Festival for a fabulous time with birds and beaches in the snow. Y'all go check these places out now, y'hear?


wow, what a wonderful post to wake up to this morning! I've only recently found your blog but am very much enjoying it.

Just got back from a very short stop at Savannah and Tybee --we had never been there before but they were oh, so special even in the fog and rain! I totally agree about camellias--so very lovely. Really enjoyed Pulaski National Monument too. Tried for the Northern Lapwing west of Savannah but we were there on one of the few days it wasn't seen--must have been the weather!

Gorgeous hawk photos! If you need a big fix of turkey vultures, you are more than welcome to come visit. I often see them by the dozens eating road kill on my daily walks. Every so slightly creepy.

Spectacular hawk shots.

For 4 years I patrolled those waters in a NPS BostonWhaler skiff. Tybee, the Bull River, and Wilmington Island are sweetspots in my memory bank. Thanks for the joyous perspective.
PS : Your osprey caught a mullet.
You should have seen our schoolyard nesting osprey pair swooping in next to my students to snatch tornado tossed branches off the ground for nest repair.

I need fish oversight. Thanks, Floridacracker. I'm glad you enjoyed seeing Tybee waters once again! I love that you worked at Ft. Pulaski--what a gorgeous place that is.
Those ospreys--such rank opportunists, no? I smiled when I saw your new osprey shot--so much like mine.
That's a durn nice schoolyard bird.
So glad the JEEP sustained no damage.

I'm just back from ten days mostly off the Internet and am just getting caught up. I'm completely in Zick overload. Loved the lab, the birds, especially the running coots, and your visit with an artist.

And if you also love black vultures, we have LOTs of them at Bay Area Park, on Armand Bayou. There is also an Armand Bayou Nature Center next door. This was my only experience with begging black vultures.

Spectacular photos of the red-tailed hawk! I loved your worded prose; thank you!

The last time my husband and I were up along the Mendocino Coast, a restaurant proprietor we chatted up said, "you're not really from Mendocino until you've seen a fish fall from the sky." Great catch and, as much as I've observed Ospreys, I've never seen the two-taloned approach!

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