December started with a show-off of a full moon, rising just behind our big oak to illuminate a rough lace of branches.
Then, as winter showed its intention to stay, I headed to Florida for a week.
Any visions I had of fun in the sun were abruptly quashed.
After a first busy morning when I was unable to get outside to enjoy the warmth, the wind whipped up, a front moved in, and the temperature plummeted.
The rest of the week, until the morning I left (of course) remained unusually frigid for Florida.
Whether weather-related or not, the underwater dock light was packed with feeding fish all week, but they weren’t the usual snook, who lurked sluggishly around the edges. The snook were displaced by raucous hordes of ladyfish, darting about as if on vacation, eating everything at the buffet. Our friend who has been fishing at the dock for decades, said he’d never seen anything like such masses of ladyfish before. They are too bony for good eating, but were fun to watch.
There are compensations to cold weather in Florida.
Mostly, everyone (but a few loony Northerners) stays inside.
Since Florida’s population is booming to the point of congested agitation to me, I enjoyed an almost empty jetty and beach.
On the other hand, the birds also made themselves scarce. With the exception of an osprey couple nesting at the marina, which seemed to be everywhere, eep-eep-eeping as they patrolled for fish and did whatever else ospreys do.
But at the jetty, there were only one or two anhingas and a few pelicans.
Fortunately for me, I love anhingas and pelicans.
They fascinate me and photographs reveal the details of feather, feet, and beak that can’t be properly appreciated with normal eyesight.
The week of cold was accompanied by high, cutting winds.
Those winds whipped up feathers, drawing my attention to the different feather types and patterns of these birds.
Brown pelicans are common as dirt in Florida and from a distance they are attractively prehistoric looking.
But with the camera’s lens, their feathers are transformed into things of subtle textured stunning beauty.
As for the anhingas, these ordinary looking birds likewise transform into feathery splendor when they spread their wings to dry, looking like birdy sentinels until they start grooming.
Then their long necks perform sinuous gymnastics, reaching every part of their bodies in seemingly impossible contortions.
Anhingas swim underwater for long stretches and, curiously, some of their feathers remind me of otter fur.
A few years ago, I took photos of a male anhinga in mating season in late January, when they develop green circles around its eyes.
Apparently December is too early for mating because the only anhinga braving the cold on this trip had brilliantly red eyes, with no green circles. I believe this one was a female.
For the first few days, I saw no egrets at the jetty, but on my last morning, a whole line of them were fishing.
Their feathers used to be used to adorn hats. Gorgeous they are, but much better on the bird.