Originally from Moments by Valerie, a collection of memories (1961-1983), written in 1986 and presented to Larry on their first anniversary.
Morning sun bath at Myakka River State Park (black vultures and alligator)
One of my favorite parks is Myakka River State Park in Florida. Besides the marshy riparian habitat, there is also a small dam creating a lake which lures birds and other wildlife year 'round. When my mother and I were camped there in December, a lot of migratory birds were wintering in the wide, shallow waters, and they would leave every morning to feed, returning to their roosts at dusk. The park ranger informed us that their flyway was directly over the tiny concrete dam at the end of the lake. Since the days were so short, we were eager for something to extend our activities into the dark hours, so, early one morning before the sun was up, we hiked over. It was very foggy, but we found a good place to sit on a slight grassy embankment by the edge of the dam, and then we waited. It got lighter, but the fog didn't clear, and we remained surrounded by a thick white cloud. We could hear various tiny rustlings and small splashes as unseen creatures moved about the water's edge. Suddenly, we heard a rushing sound and out of the white appeared the birds. They exploded into our field of vision, then just as dramatically vanished back into the mist. There were more than we ever anticipated, some chirping noisily, some silent; and they continued to fly by for half an hour. They were all traveling in the same direction, as if making their entrance onto the stage, then exiting the other side. We saw egrets, herons, storks, cranes, songbirds, ibises, spoonbills, cormorants, and ducks. Some were close enough for a clear view and others were just shadows in the fog. They didn't fly very high off the ground; perhaps they needed landmarks that were obscured by the fog. From our barely elevated vantage point, it seemed that we were almost at eye level with some, while others flew just over our heads. At times a single flock seemed to go on and on, containing scores of individuals, while other times the birds were in small groups of three or four. Just as suddenly as it had started, the exodus ended. Although a few stragglers continued to fly past, we could tell when the show was over. It was one of the most enjoyable avian performances I've ever had the pleasure to witness.