hanging together

My search for migrating shorebirds brought me to Flamingo in Everglades National Park. Nestled on the southernmost shore of the Florida peninsula, Flamingo is a favorite of saltwater flats anglers, tourists, and nature lovers. Recent posts on Osprey and Black-necked Stilts had their conception at Flamingo. Photos on this blog came from two trips. On the first, a camping trip, a calm sea and vibrant Morningjoy sunrise greeted my awakening eyes.

Flamingo Sunrise over Florida Bay

Flamingo Sunrise over Florida Bay

Searching the shoreline, I only found one small spaced group of feeding Willets.

Willet Quartet

Willet Quartet

On my second visit to the same portion of shoreline, a solitary Willet greeted me with occasional glances while actively picking through seaweed and probing marl for bits of food. A southerly wind whipped the shallow surf.

Lone Willet

Lone Willet

I took several photos of this bird while inching closer on my belly. Sir Willet continued to feed unconcerned by my intrusion. Another resident, a Ring-billed Gull, watched my advance with curiosity.

Comfy Gull

Comfy Gull

I followed the Willet until he led me to a small point of land crowded with migrating Willet fellows and Marbled Godwits.

Hanging with Birds of a Feather

Hanging with Birds of a Feather

I could not but wonder why these birds chose to hang together so closely when a long shoreline spread on either side. They massed together; beaks facing into the wind.

Waiting Willets

Waiting Willets

A little research showed that these two species of shorebird often associate with each other. This camaraderie benefits every bird. First, there is safety in numbers. This I observed when a pair of Vultures, one Turkey; one Black, advanced upon the group causing a portion to take wing.  Suddenly, I saw nondescript gray birds transformed into objects of beauty as they revealed their dramatic black and white zigzag patterned wings. There’s a fascinating article on Willets in flight on one of my favorite birding sites, 10,000 Birds. Be sure to click on the image below for a full-sized and enlarged view.

Willets and Marbled Godwits Take Wing

Willets and Marbled Godwits Take Wing

Group migration also affords benefits in flight as first time travelers fly alongside veterans. Birds who fly in social groups take advantage of the wing-ip vortices created by others. This creates an aerodynamic advantage of continuous airflow that enhances lift and reduces drag. There is an interesting new study showing that migration at night occurs in “dispersed flocks.” I’m sure there are other reasons for birds hanging together. I, for one, find the subject fascinating and an ever-expanding cause of wonder at the intricacies of God’s creation.  How about you?

Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

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