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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Catching Thermals ...

[Sanibel Island and Bunche Beach, FL]

An impressively large bird soars overhead; gliding effortlessly. The Magnificent Frigatebird uses its 7-ft wingspan to travel long distances leveraging thermals in search of food.

The red pouch on its neck indicates that this is a male; this is one of the few sexually dimorphic pelagic birds. In its feeding habits, it is  not averse to indulging in kleptoparasitism -- harassing and intimidating other sea birds to give up their catch; a behavior that is shared with other members of the frigate family and help explains its common name of "Man O'War".

Elsewhere, the smell of rotting fish washed up on the shore proves irresistible to a bevy of turkey vultures who circle lethargically; careful not to expend even a single calorie of energy more than necessary to remain in a masterful state of controlled levitation.

A few, finding a perching point, looked for a chance to scavenge in peace but a steady stream of beach foot-traffic keeps them hesitant and at a respectful distance.

On the other side of bay at Bunche Beach, an immature bald eagle soars overhead.

Down below, the eagle is detected by a long-billed curlew as if by a "sixth sense" -- well before it appears overhead. The curlew sounds its alarm call sharply and takes to wing in a flash.

The nearby raft of resting skimmers, gulls and terns [which I was hoping to examine next] all take off in panicked unison. Hard to imagine that just minutes before, the curlew was found feeding contentedly and confidingly.

Walking in regal steps on the mudflats at Bunche Beach in the bright sun.

This graceful walk interrupted by the presence of the raptor had one silver lining. As the curlew takes off, it reveals the rich cinnamon of the underwing.

Reminding all present that the rewards of nature observation are gifted in mysterious and unexpected ways.

GPS tag for magnificent frigatebird: Map Link
GPS tag for long-billed curlew: Map Link

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