Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cedar Key Birdapalooza

Cold, blustery days at Cedar Key concentrate the birds into two groups, those who huddle together conserving energy and staying warm, and those who must feed when the tide is right, regardless of the weather.

Gulls are masters of food finding in any conditions and, like rats and roaches, adapt quickly to human activities. Hence their presence at inland landfills, Walmart parking lots, and picnic areas. Cedar Key's little beach park is loaded with these clever beggars and the kids had a great time sharing their lunch with eager gulls.

This immature laughing gull has managed to lose a foot somewhere in his short life.

In a swirling mass of ringbilled gulls and laughing gulls, "Pegleg" was the only gull that would take food from my hands. I watched him as I alternately ate and shared my peanut butter sandwich. He would come by for a bit of my whole wheatbread, Smuckers all natural peanut butter and peach jam sandwich, make a big circle while swallowing the high energy treat, and then come back for more.

The skimmers can choose when to feed and are not so dependent on the tides, so they were huddling in a large flock where those on the outside acted as a windbreak for those inside.My students resembled the flock of skimmers for parts of the day as they too, huddled together, trying to stay warm.

Willets are dependent on exposed mudflats for feeding and must get out there when the tide is low, regardless of the cold.

An immature laughing gull with windblown feathers. This one comes complete with two feet.

A lot of solitary gulls like this laughing gull were just hanging out, enduring the wind and being still ...

... as were the ring-billed gulls.

Today, Thursday, is calm, sunny, and just cool enough to prevent a sweat.
In short, it is just about the perfect day for a field trip to Cedar Key. I teased them about choosing to go on the cold windy day, but they are still adamant that today would have been too easy and they would not have had as much fun.
Gotta love that attitude.
Spring break begins at 2:30 this afternoon, so the kids and the teacher's are distracted and only a little focused on our studies today.
It's a spring fever pandemic.


threecollie said...

Hooray for Spring Break, field trips and folks who delight their readers with wonderful bird photos!!!

Dani said...

I want another spring break! I miss my little girl when she's away at school.

debbie said...

Several years ago my kids discovered that the gulls LOVE Cheetos. At St. George Island the gulls will take the Cheetos right out of your hand.

Sharon said...

Holy cow, those feeding shots are awesome!!

cinbad122 said...

I can't wait.....mountains here I come! and gambling!

Margaret Cloud said...

Thank you for sharing these wonderful pictures, I really like the photos of the birds against the sky. Hope you have a nice Easter.

kathy a. said...

wonderful birds! no wonder your students came back so enthused. [in addition to the reasons mentioned yesterday.]

i like pegleg. he/she seems to have developed some strategies to overcome the disadvantage.

SophieMae said...

Gotta love that attitude, indeed! Great birdshot! Er, bird shots. 8-} I hope we see skimmers this weekend! They're way up there on my B list. (B list = bird's A list)

Bonne break!

S N B said...

It is also the full moon. My kids are back from spring break, but they did not stop talking today. Phew! Supposedly it was school-wide. Full moons are like that!

Deb said...

Nice shorebirds!

We Minnesotans normally flock down to Florida this time of year expecting good weather. I may even be chaperoning a band trip there next year (yikes!) But I think our weather was probably the same as yours that day.

Ericka said...

very cool. if i tried those feeding pictures, i'd probably end up on my rear in the water and the gull would poop on my head. that's my karma.

Doug Taron said...

I always enjoy your marine field trip posts. They bring back good memories for me- you remind me so much of some of my favorite science teachers (and I've had a whole bunch of science teachers over the years)

Floridacracker said...

And hooray for good folks to share them with!

You are such a good Mom. I know the feeling ... some of my sweetest memories are staying home with them when they were a little sick and we'd camp out in the living room all day with Belle or Ariel and chicken soup. Oh, and Barney and Raffi. Okay I'll stop now.

It's worth the orange fingers to share Cheetos with gulls. One for me, one for them, one for ...

Not hard though. Take a bag of bread to the beach, with your skill you can get it easy!

You rascal! That huge teacher salary is just burning a hole in your pocket. I forgot to give you a dollar to gamble for me!

Thank you and I hope yours is wonderful too!

Kathy A,
I like Peg too. At first I wasn't sure it was the same bird returning, but then it became very obvious that only this one bird was willing to trust me on that day.

I bet they are waiting for you in St. Marks right now.

Full moons definitely affect them. Hope you survived the chatter.

Chaperoning an interstate trip! Brave soul.
I'm sure it will be an adventure.

Besides the poop threat, gulls sometimes nip the finger that feeds so you have to be careful.

Thanks Doug! We didn't get the variety this trip without the boat dredging, but it was still a good culminating event for these kids.

edifice rex said...

Yeah, it's good that they can look at the cold that way. I guess I'm too old and have spent one too many cold days working in the wind and mud to have that attitude. I'd have said the hell with it and waited for a warmer day! ;D

Floridacracker said...

The voice of experience. For them it was clearly a first time in raw powerful weather.
Today is perfect too!