A walk on St. Pete Beach

Go for a walk. Realize that you are part of nature. That nature is not something you can collect. It is collecting you. Pick up some garbage. Pick up some seeds, some feathers, some stones. Examine your findings. Know that you cannot decide their worth. You have no way of knowing. Today, a look at one tiny part of the celestial body that owns us. That's right, it's bigger. Like few other precious things. Bigger than you. Bigger than your plans. Bigger than what you thought was going to happen.

The planet is bigger than you and you are living here, paying rent to other people. You are not paying rent to the planet. Your stay here is free. Appreciate that.

Value your relationship with the flora&fauna around you and let that value fill you from the toes up. Until it pours out of your ears, a sign that your brain is saturated with love for your habitat and that no ignorance can find its way upstream.

Below, appreciate above-water Florida. Some of you know what I mean when I say "above-water". When you explain it to other people, don't be surprised when they call you a paranoid, propaganda-monger.

A Brown Pelican, fine people.

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He is diving for mouthfuls of anchovies and sardines. While enjoying a margarita, I was able to peer over the side of the wall, into the water, and focus on the darting schools of these fish. I highly recommend this restaurant (Woody's Waterfront) for both the pelican-watching and the margaritas.

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On the way back to the beach, over the pavement bridges that connect the sand, I observed many of these beauties.

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That tiny fold of skin under the chin actually folds out into a bright yellow-orange dewlap. What's a dewlap? In lizards, it's a tiny fan-shaped protrusion from the neck that is mostly used to attract mates or to communicate with other lizards of its kind.

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Beyond the sea wall and the large obstacles that break the waves, I admired a pair of Double-crested Cormorants drying their wings in the sun. If you're unfamiliar with the bizarre process by which they dry their wings, check out this post from a while back: 2birdfeature #6.

And this little lady swam ashore to beg for food when I walked near her.

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Come back later this week for more wildlife. I'll still be here rooting for the planet. I'm not going anywhere.

2birdfeature #6

20130812-DSCN1905 One of these things is not like the others. And it doesn't care. Even as a more solitary bird, it seems as if the Double-crested Cormorant might like the company of an entire colony of Glaucous-winged Gulls. I saw a few cormorants during my time on the island but this little character was on the dock the day before I left the island for good. So I remember him fondly.

Most of the time when you see cormorants they are fishing or drying out in the sun in their characteristic horror movie stance. Cormorants lack a uropygial gland. This is the gland that produces the oil that birds preen into their feathers rendering them waterproof. It's odd that a water bird like a cormorant wouldn't have this gland but there you have it. In order to dry after swimming and diving, cormorants generally perch in trees or on rocks where the sunshine is plentiful. But to make the process go a bit faster, they spread their wings and stretch their necks forward.

Imagine an entire tree full of large black birds holding their wings out like a dozen grim reapers. Unsettling.

This fellow was doing something entirely different. He was watching the gulls with great interest and then jumping up and down on the horn cleats of the dock (that metal thing you tie your boat off to). An easily amused bird for an easily amused birder.

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Our second and final bird of the 2birdfeature posts will be this guy:

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The Cassin's Finch is a near threatened bird that lives in western North America. Prior to 1996, this bird was one of the more numerous finch species but it is now estimated that only 2 million remain. Lack in availability of nest sites is one reason for the decline but the species also struggles with male to female ratio. It seems that the natural balance tends to shift toward many more males than females which is problematic for obvious reasons.

If you're looking for Cassin's Finches, look toward the top of conifer trees in montane and subalpine forests. And listen for a call that sounds like "giddy-up". Finches are also famous for mocking other birds' calls so good luck to you there.

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I hope you've enjoyed the 2birdfeatures! Stop by this weekend for Glaucous-winged Gulls. I know what you're thinking. They're just a bunch of seagulls.

Think again.