The Cure

Holidays, family, illness.  Challenges which can result in unexpected schedule changes and postpone such activities as writing a blog.  So it has been for several weeks.

We both managed to catch the flu for the first time in many years and it has taken awhile to resume our roles among the living.  My wife and I were both born and raised in Florida and part of our heritage included a trip to the beach to help cure all manner of evils.  Thus, yesterday we headed west on our first trip out of doors since Christmas.

Our destination was Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, Florida.  This beach community is west of Tampa and just north of Sarasota.  There are myriad vacation rentals, shops, restaurants, fishing piers and just nice people here.

The Gulf of Mexico is usually calm and warm and soothing.  Naturally, I picked a day a cold front was coming ashore with gale force winds and spitting rain.  I need to work on my timing.  Before the wind turned cold, I was able to wander along the beach and greeted some visitors from the north as well as a few year-round residents.

Among the winter visitors were some celebrities.  Razorbills (Alca torda).  There has been an invasion of these birds in Florida this winter.  Previously, only 14 observations had been recorded.  Since early December 2012, it appears over 1,000 birds have made their way to Florida’s coastlines.  These small black and white birds normally winter off the Atlantic coast of the Carolinas.  Scientists speculate the cause of this unusual event may be tied to a very successful breeding season or low food supplies in their normal wintering area or a combination of several factors.  While it’s thrilling for Florida birders to be able to catch a glimpse of a bird not normally seen in our area, we hope the migrants are able to find their way back home successfully.






A Black-bellied Plover ignored me as he probed the soft sand for a tasty morsel.  Dressed in his drab winter garb, he displays no traces of the black plumage from which he gets his name.

Black-bellied Plover

Black-bellied Plover


Another winter visitor with none of his beautiful breeding plumage was a Common Loon.  This fellow was enjoying a sardine feast has he dove repeatedly into a large school.

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon

Common Loon


A pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew in and immediately began diving for lunch.  They didn’t stay long and swam up the beach quickly, diving continuously.  It seemed as though they were in a race to see who could eat the most and be the first to reach the goal line.

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser


Local residents were lounging around and seemed in no hurry to grab a meal.  Typical natives!

The one exception were the terns.  They were busy diving into the schools of sardines from a good height.  Both Forster’s and Sandwich Terns were active.

Forster's Tern

Forster’s Tern


The Willet was feeding along the beach, but he was leisurely strolling along instead of his usual frantic run-probe-run style.




The White Ibis gang preened and milled around.  They seemed more nervous than usual.  Perhaps the impending weather change was affecting them.

White Ibis

White Ibis


Pods of Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls dotted the beach and most were just resting.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull


No trip to the salt water would be complete without the presence of the Brown Pelican.  A dozen were preening on nearby rocks and poles and groups of 3-6 cruised by constantly just off the beach.  One flew right over my head and I think he thought I might be a good place to rest.  (I DO move slowly!)

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican


As the weather deteriorated, we found a place to park and watch the white-capped waves pound ashore while we enjoyed a picnic lunch in the comfortable cocoon of the truck.  We didn’t get to dive into the “warm” salt water as we would when we were kids, but just being in that environment left us feeling refreshed.  We look forward to returning to “normal” soon!




Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit.


Additional Resources:

Anna Maria Island

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

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34 thoughts on “The Cure

  1. What a great series of birds, Wally! All birds I will never get to see unles I visit the US. I’m intrigued at your Pelicans as ours are mostly white with black wings.

    • That’s why we blog so we can see each other’s birds! We also have American White Pelicans here which are very similar to yours. Thanks for your kind comments!

  2. Nothing like a good cure I always say. Great shots of all the birds Wally! I especially like the eye level shot of the Willet. Nice work!

    • Thank you, Larry! It feels good to feel good again! That Willet made a bee-line toward me as soon as I sat down in the sand. I had to work fast to keep re-focusing! Guess he thought I had a hand-out for him. 🙂

  3. What wonderful shots of the locals at the beach…. 🙂 And what better way to recuperate from the flu (which I hear is fairly awful this year)!!

  4. I loved the chance to glimpse a Razorbill; love the messy-hair look of the mergansers; and the brown pelicans are always a treat to behold. I’d love to explore Ana Maria, too. Is it crowded with buildings and people in addition to birds? So relieved you two are back in the land of the living. . .

    • Hey, Sister! We’re definitely feeling better. Thank you for taking time to comment, what with your encounters with Dragons, cabbages and adverse reactions! Anna Maria has pretty beaches, but is definitely built up with vacation rentals and tourist shops and stays pretty crowded all year, especially in the summer. 😦

      (For those who enjoy great writing and glimpses into Florida life in the pine woods, check out my sister’s wonderful blog at

  5. What a wonderful collection of shots. I especially liked the brown pelican posing on the post. You’re lucky to have such a large variety of birds. Thanks for visiting my blog. Hope to see you again!

    • I appreciate your comments. We are quite blessed year ’round with a wonderful variety of birds. The trick is getting out often enough to see ’em all! 🙂

  6. southwestarkie

    Wow, what a fun time of bird watching- you saw more birds in just a few minutes than I see in years! Thanks for sharing, and glad you both are feeling better!

  7. Wally, I can only imagine what a treat those Razorbills were for you. And you even got nice photos of them as a bonus. I really like that last pelican image. I’m glad you’ve recovered from the flu – couldn’t have been much fun. So far I’ve avoided it this year…

    • Thank you, Ron. I kept yelling at the Razorbills to swim closer to shore cause I can’t afford a big lens, but they ignored me! The sun broke through for a moment and gave me a bit of side lighting for the pelican. I appreciate your comments.

  8. Wally, just looking at your images made me feel that I was in Florida again and much warmer than it is here! Thank you for sharing your birds

  9. So glad you guy were able to get out and see the “celebrities”. You go so many fun shots. Looks like you had a good trip.

    • Dina, after seeing your excellent photos, I almost didn’t post the ones I took! It was good to see them before they head for home. Yep, it was a good trip.

  10. Oh gosh — I’m so glad you’re both on the mend — and what a beautiful beach to find some joy after being down for the count. Wonderful birds. I’ve read a few articles recently about the razorbills…thanks for the pictures. I hope they find their way back to where they belong.

    I’m putting Anna Maria Island on my must-visit list.

  11. Wally, sorry you two had the flu but glad you are feeling well enough to post your awesome photos of the birds you saw on your recent visit to Anna Maria Island.
    Congrats on capturing shots of the Razorbill.

  12. Great pictures – glad to see the flu did not last too long. Hope the (slightly old) New Year brings good birds and good health.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne

  13. Glad you all are on the mends! It sure looks like your trip to Anna Maria was productive! I’m still (impatiently) waiting to see a Razorbill! Great variety you captured, Wally!

    • Thank you, Tammy. We’re definitely feeling much better. It was good to smell the salt air. I wish the little critters had come in a little closer since I don’t have much “lens reach”. At least we got to see ’em before they head home!

  14. Hi Wally and thanks for your comment!
    A lot of nice birds your saw on your trip and nice photos of all of them.
    I especially like the brown pelican on the last photo and that with the ibis. That would be exciting for me to see those!
    Hope you will be feeling better and better, you and your wife!
    Greetings Pia

  15. The flu has been awful! Glad you two are feeling better and are able to be out and about again, enjoying the beach and birds. Gorgeous series; really like the Ring-billed Gull and Willet.

  16. TexWisGirl

    what a great bunch of beach fowl! glad you’re feeling better!

  17. Thank you, Pat! Yes, we feel much better!

  18. You found many beautiful birds at the beach! I hope you found some relief from the flu also.

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