The water on the bay side of the fort’s beach was fairly calm and a stained color, but we walked around the point to where the blue-green waves of the Gulf meets with this southward flowing river. The surface of the water where this confluence occurred showed intense currents boiling as they collided, and did not look like a very safe place to swim under any situation. We spread some towels on the white sand, put on some sunscreen, popped open a few beers, and enjoyed the view and the melting feeling of warm sunshine with a nice salty breeze in our faces.
There were cute little gray birds that darted back and forth trying to stay out of the waves, scooping into the sand as the wave retreated looking for something to eat. Terns and black headed gulls screamed as they flew by us. Then we noticed that there was a calm spot behind the confluence of waters that a large number of birds were repeatedly diving into with quite a flurry of excitement. The surface of the water showed there to be a large school of little fish, which would flush to avoid the predators. Then the show got more interesting.
The birds were just the first to tap into this hemmed up food source. Then came the other predators from the under the water. Larger fish flashed silver sides as they struck at the school, most likely Spanish Mackerels, perhaps King Mackerels, and Blue Fish too. The frenzy was on and the water was splashing and was whipped into froth. Porpoises got into the scene next, large groups moved into the fray, moving along side by side, working in team to massacre what fish were left. The worst of this dining experience was not 50 yards away, but several of the porpoises came by us, very close up, and were varying colors and sizes. Occasionally a porpoise would flap its tail on the water before diving, perhaps to startle the bait.
Finally the beer ran out, the fishy frenzy had subsided, and we had certainly gotten more sun than we needed, even with the sp lotion, so we went to find the bird groups that were supposed to be trapping the migratory birds that fly into this first bit of land after crossing the Gulf from Central America this time of year. We found one group next to a small group of trees just taking their mist nets down and packing them away. They said they had seen very few for this day and were all a bit puzzled at the lack of numbers and wondered if perhaps the fog had messed the birds up.
Many moons ago, in college, Mark and I had come down to help with the netting, banding, etc with our friend and biology professor, Dr Tom. I was new to all the diverse types of birds there were at that time and the experience was amazing. To hold a tiny Painted Bunting in your hand, for the first time you have ever seen one, is a treat. The colors on it and the rest of the poor exhausted travelers were stunning. The banding gives valuable information to scientists as to populations and multi-continent migratory routes of these birds, and people from all over come to watch the process and see up close these little winged jewels.
Day light of two was toast, dinner on the water’s edge again, and back to the hotel for shuteye before the long drive back to home, horses, dogs, parents, and reality. It was good to get away, if only for two days, and a still alive, wide awake Jack met us at the carport with enthusiastic yelps. Home again, home again.