Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Do Avocets Dream of Perfect Mud?

For three after work afternoons in a row, I had missed these avocets.
The first afternoon, I just could not stop, an appointment demanded my presence elsewhere.
The second day, I stopped, and they immediately flew off.
The third day, they were a little too far from the roadway.

On the fourth day, as I got into the JEEP to leave work, I prepared for OPERATION AVOCET.
  • Step one: Unzip the passenger side window and fold it down.
  • Open camera bag, check all camera settings.
  • Pray,hope, wish that the birds will be there.

And they were.

Individually and in small troops, they slogged across the tidal mudflat, sweeping their upturned bills sideways through each and every ebb tide puddle.

Tiny mud snails, grass shrimps, and fish fry left behind by the retreating Gulf of Florida were efficiently and ruthlessly removed from their protective puddles by the left - right sweeping of the avocet's bill.

Our winter tides are tres, tres LOW and the migrating shorebirds, like these avocets, are reaping the mud's rich bounty.

I wonder if the avocets love the marshy mud for all it provides.
I know I do.
I love the smell of the estuary mud.
I love the texture ... like silt pudding.
I love sinking in it, sometimes up to my chest ... and feeling things, living things creeping through it, brushing my skin, reminding me that this mud is ALIVE.

The avocets know that last fact, that the mud is alive.
It's what draws them to slog across it, sweeping, ever sweeping.

I don't know if the bird brain allows an appreciation of the big picture though.
Does the avocet ever pause in awe at the wonder, the sheer magic, that transforms sunlight into diatoms in the mud, and then to snails, shrimps, and other mudflat plankton eaters, before finally, changing one more time into feathers, muscle, and long sweeping, upturned Avocet bills?

I don't speak Avocet, so I don't have an answer.

They were chattering about something while they worked though ...


Dina said...

So jealous. I still haven't seen these guys yet. I hear they are at such and such beach and run out there to find nothing. One of these days.

Marilyn Kircus said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to get these pictures. It took the edge off of missing them.

I love avocets and, while working at Anahuac NWR, used to go to Bolivar Flats or Bolivar Jetty and watch them. We have a couple of thousand of them in the winter. I love to watch they fly and wheel into beautiful curves and wonder how they can do that.

Suzanne said...

How interesting! Thank you so much for your love of nature and for sharing it all in such a lovely way. Wishing you a delicious Thanksgiving.

threecollie said...

Aren't they cool! I would never want to be in mud up to my chest though. Knee deep is bad enough

Caroline said...

When I walked along the creek this morning, there was ice rimming the edge, I don't think anyone would want to sink their toes in COLD, COLD mud! Although I did see a mallard couple snoozing in the icy water up to their knees and not minding.
Happy Thanksgiving to the denizens of PF Headquarters.

Anonymous said...

Birds are very intelligent. I think they know they are in primo mud flats.
tammy in Al

Anonymous said...

Hi FC,

Cools birds! do you get out of the mud when you're chest deep?? Don't know if I could handle living things brushing my skin! So glad to have you for that!

I hope you guys have a great Thanksgiving!

Patio (aka 30,378)

Aunty Belle said...

Uh, yep, what Anon/ Patio said--how does ya extricate yorwself when youse chest deep in alive mud??

Lovely birds--an' best of all is how much YOU love 'em!

Wishin' all the FC clan the best Thanksgivin' ever--warmest regards to yore Mama an yore Dad.

Pablo said...

Up to your chest in the mud? Would that qualify for one of your "Stupid Things I have Done" posts? Sounds dangerous.

Floridacracker said...

Everytime I visit your site, with your clear, close, crisp bird photos, ... I get a big dose of envy.

You are welcome! So glad I posted a favorite critter for you. This time of year, wheeling white flocks of migratory shorebirds just mesmerize me.

Thanks and a very Happy Thanksgiving to you!

They are exquisite!
I am thinking I need to strap on the GOPRO headmount video cam and go mud slogging with you all!

Our mud isn't cold yet!
It was 77 here yesterday.
Happy Thanksgiving !

You are saying "bird brain" does not apply here?
I bet you are right.

Patio 30,378 and Aunty Belle,
To your dual question,
Answer: You swim. If you can feel solid bottom, you push off a little and try to get lateral.
If no solid bottom is found, you do a very laborious vertical muddog paddle.
Happy Thanksgiving to both of ya!

Maybe for an old guy, but not for me.
You have a very happy Thanksgiving, pal. In my mind, you are all having it out at RR in the cabin.

Dani said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Anonymous said...

Well, I watch a lot of PBS and over the years, they keep showing us how intelligent they are. Just watched a show with Turkeys and a guy that lived with them a year. They have coginitive abilities and can even do math....I wouldn't call them bird brains, but then we have homosapian brains.....well, that is another story, some work better than others.... :0

Miz S said...

You have a poet's soul, FC. The joy and mystery you find in nature is inspiring to me. Thanks for an uplifting post.