We’ve spent the better part of a week camped on, or near, the Gulf of Mexico–first at Florida’s St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park, then last night at Big Lagoon State Park near Pensacola.
“The Gulf’s location in is in the very heart of bird migration where it provides critical resting places and food resources for birds making their way between North America and the tropics,” according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Whether we strolled on the beach or walked on a boardwalk through salt water marshes –wildlife were busily in the on-going process of gathering food.
The enormous graceful and effective fisher Brown Pelicans (top) patrolled the surf with a skillful eye. (Click on images to make them larger) The Great Blue Herons (above right) are stealth and patient fishers, frequently positioning themselves on the edges of the salt water marches.
Snowy Plovers, (above left) the delicate six-inch shorebird, frequently can be spotted feeding in groups, scurrying along the surf line in search of food. Plovers nest on the beach just above high tide lines.
More than 60 species of birds use habitats in needlerush salt water marshes, including year-round residents such as the Great Blue Heron. One creature, a small turtle, wasn’t fast enough to outrun a recent burn in the salt marsh of St. Joseph’s Peninsula State Park.
Photos: (from top) Brown Pelican taking off; Blue Heron waiting; Snowy Plover scurrying on the Gulf Coast beach; burned turtle; and scorched salt marsh in Florida’s St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. (Julianne Crane)