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Pink Flamingos, Happy Boy

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The first thing Liam and I did upon arriving at Merritt Island NWR near Titusville, FL, was to stop right on the road for a bald eagle who was hangin' out on a power pole. I have been there a bunch of times and I'd never seen that. Now, maybe I'm supposed to be blase about an enormous sea eagle 30' over my head. But I'm not. A truck honked at us and swerved, gunning its engine, and it was then I realized it was probably stupid of me to stop on the main road. But still. I was overwhelmed. And as it turned out, we never saw another eagle perched so close. I was glad we'd taken the time to ogle it. Liam took this photo! (I kept handing him my camera, as all the best wildlife was out the passenger side of the car. Wink, wink.)

Great big and itty bitty Florida cooters near the Merritt Island Visitor Center. I want to name a dog Cooter.

Another Liam shot of a majestic high-headed gator. Ahh. Such a grand reptile.

I love packing my long lens around. I can take candid shots of my primate companions. Liam saw some oranges hanging high overhead and wanted one sooo badly.

He scrounged a palm frond petiole and took to leaping and poking.

I so wanted him to score an orange to eat, but they were on there pretty good, wouldn't come down for him. I call my kids The Toucans. It is very difficult to keep them in fruit. I buy apples and kiwis and clementines by the bushel.

We climbed back in the car and drove slowly around Black Point Wildlife Drive. The light was hard and harsh, but we had fun fun fun.

I always forget that roseate spoonbills have head skin the color of used chewing gum. Freaky greenish-blue. That's a winter American avocet exiting, stage left.

We were in Florida for a week and saw oodles of spoonbills, but I never once got used to seeing a large flaming pink bird. I'm glad of that. May I never get used to spoonbills. 

I had a good (silent, inner) chuckle when a woman I was standing near on a viewing platform asked me if I'd seen the flamingo go over. 
"I saw a roseate spoonbill go over just a bit ago, but no flamingo."

"This was a flamingo."

I chewed that over for awhile and decided the fate of the world didn't ride on whether she'd seen a flamingo or not. Flamingos may sometimes be found very sparingly in the Florida Keys. A day's drive south of Titusville.

I replied simply, "Cool!" and ambled off. About twenty minutes later I was peering intently into a shrub at a common yellowthroat. The same woman came up behind me. "What are you looking at?" she asked.

"Common yellowthroat, male, right at the water's edge."

"Really? Now who'd ever think to stop and look at something like that?" she exclaimed.

That took me by surprise. Huh?? I actually laughed out loud. What a bizarre thing to say!

I turned around and smiled at her, meeting her eyes.

"That pink bird you saw fly over? Roseate spoonbill. Flamingos are found only in the Keys, and they're super rare."

"Oh! OK."

Never can pass up a teaching moment, and she'd given me permission to correct her (kindly) by asking me what I was looking at, and making a comment that told me she didn't yet know a hawk from a handsaw. Seemed like the right thing to do, to tell her she'd seen a spoonbill, so she wouldn't go around calling them flamingos to everybody she ran into. Kind of like wiping a daub of ketchup off somebody's lapel.

Or shoulder...I never tire of trying to get a peek or a picture of a spoonbill's saffron tail. Not to mention the used-bubblegum head.

Binocular vision in a young tricolored heron. I like his tighty whities.

Really, what a lovely bird, all painted with rufous. Saw so many of them and never tired of the "Lady of the Lake," either. Pure elegance on the wing or on foot. I do miss the name "Lousiana heron."

When I was a teen, I was pretty sure I'd never get to see a wood stork in my lifetime. They were almost extinct then. I felt the same about brown pelicans and bald eagles. Imagine. I'm that old. But I'm not that old. They've recovered that quickly! There is so much to celebrate in conservation today. Forget the gloom. There are bald eagles on the power poles, and wood storks walking around on lawns and roadside ditches. And that, to me, is a miracle.

 Liam liked this wood stork. He narrated its preening. I love birding with Liam.

A raft of northern pintails, hauled out. They have the right idea. Breed in the prairie potholes, winter along the Florida coast. I could dig that seasonal regime, if I had somebody to fly with.

Another Liam Thompson shot, of shovelers! Watch out world, he's got a telephoto!

He's not bad with an iPhone camera, either. Selfie by the pool... taken for his sister who was freezing her patootie off in a Maine snowstorm at that moment. He said it was so bright he couldn't see the palm tree until he got back in the room. Classic shot!

Yes, it's always worth yanking the kid out of school for a week in January. Never more emphatically so than this January. He told me today (Feb. 2) that he's finally caught up with schoolwork and back in the groove. And that the Florida vacation was worth every minute of grief since he got back.
Atta boy! Way to live.


Thank you for yet another post that lifts my spirits when world news tries it's damndest to drag them down. I can always count on you! Thank you so much for that!

Posted by Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 4:08 AM

So glad you see what others pass over. I often wonder how empty people's lives must be and they don't even know it. Thanks for sharing these beautiful gems with us.

Many years ago, during a cold nasty winter, Linda and I decided to drive south until we got warm. We drove all the way down Florida on one side to Key West and all the way back on the other side. Many firsts for both of us and this was back when we had to go all the way to Florida to see a Bald Eagle! Much has gotten better for eagles and other endangered birds since then.

Posted by Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 5:58 AM

I had a cat named Cooter :-) Fine cat. Weezy in Texas

Posted by Anonymous February 5, 2015 at 6:33 AM

It's below zero today, but I feel warmer already!!

Posted by Deb Wingert February 5, 2015 at 7:18 AM

You're always painting, Julie - with words as expertly as brushes. Mimimanderly said it: " . . lifts my spirits . . ."

Such a wonderful journey with Liam. Love seeing all the incredibly colorful birds there.

Love that you are willing to take your kids out of school for a little hand's on education.

Wonderful birds in your photos from bald eages to roseate spoonbills.

How anyone could see only three colors to describe the the Lady of the Lake has been a mystery to me for years. It is truly still the Louisiana Heron! Sounds like a wonderful trip....Liam the Citrus Hunter. Thanks for sharing

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