Birds of a Feather

IMG_8225.jpg

December started with a show-off of a full moon, rising just behind our big oak to illuminate a rough lace of branches.

IMG_8001.jpg

IMG_8018_edited-1

Then, as winter showed its intention to stay, I headed to Florida for a week.

IMG_8100.jpg

Any visions I had of fun in the sun were abruptly quashed.

IMG_8080.jpg

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.

IMG_8192.jpg

Even the hibiscus flowers were tattered at the edges by the cold and wind.

IMG_8193.jpg

The rest of the week, until the morning I left (of course) remained unusually frigid for Florida.

IMG_8605.jpg

Pelican ornaments.  The most mature ones are highest in the tree.

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.

IMG_8061.jpg

There are compensations to cold weather in Florida.

IMG_8440.jpg

Almost empty beach.

IMG_8455.jpg

One bird.

IMG_8433.jpg

And plenty of shells.

Mostly, everyone (but a few loony Northerners) stays inside.

IMG_8695.jpg

Well-insulated surfers.

Since Florida’s population is booming to the point of congested agitation to me, I enjoyed an almost empty jetty and beach.

IMG_8137.jpg

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.

IMG_8480.jpg

But at the jetty, there were only one or two anhingas and a few pelicans.

IMG_8233.jpg

Fortunately for me, I love anhingas and pelicans.

IMG_8215.jpg

They fascinate me and photographs reveal the details of feather, feet, and beak that can’t be properly appreciated with normal eyesight.

IMG_8542

IMG_8548

IMG_8553.jpg

The week of cold was accompanied by high, cutting winds.

IMG_8163.jpg

Those winds whipped up feathers, drawing my attention to the different feather types and patterns of these birds.

IMG_8644.jpg

IMG_8617.jpgIMG_8377.jpgIMG_8184.jpg

IMG_8273.jpg

Brown pelicans are common as dirt in Florida and from a distance they are attractively prehistoric looking.

IMG_8217.jpg

But with the camera’s lens, their feathers are transformed into things of subtle textured stunning beauty.

IMG_8557.jpgIMG_8564.jpgIMG_8558.jpg
IMG_8565_edited-1.jpg

IMG_8728

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.

IMG_8568.jpgIMG_8655.jpg

IMG_8112

IMG_8132.jpg

Then their long necks perform sinuous gymnastics, reaching every part of their bodies in seemingly impossible contortions.

IMG_8360.jpg

Anhingas swim underwater for long stretches and, curiously, some of their feathers remind me of otter fur.

IMG_8247.jpg
IMG_8131.jpg

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.

IMG_5557

IMG_5562

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.

IMG_8662

IMG_8324.jpg

For the first few days, I saw no egrets at the jetty, but on my last morning, a whole line of them were fishing.

IMG_8506.jpg

Their feathers used to be used to adorn hats.  Gorgeous they are, but much better on the bird.

IMG_8647.jpgIMG_8631.jpg

IMG_8519.jpg