florida, coast, gulf, bay, travel, nature

How to See More Species Without Really Trying

When exploring, I tend to be a very active outdoorswomen. Time outside is an important part of my regular exercise, and on trips I try to rack up the miles. Most of the time, my constant movement works well. I’m usually searching for birds, and the farther I go, the more I see!

But not always.

Yesterday I had some free time after work. My original plan was jam packed: walk for two miles on the beach scanning for shorebirds, head to the gym for a quick 45 minute workout, and then drive home to make dinner. Badda bing, badda boom, get things done!

My office is on one of the barrier islands along the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle, with the Choctawhatchee Bay on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Gulf, so I headed to the calmer bay in case there was anything different to see.

I was within the golden time, the hour and a half before sunset when light is best. The moment my feet hit the beach I felt more mellow, more relaxed. The white sand was soft under my toes, and the waving grasses along the dunes seemed to glow in the sun, yellow goldenrod and sea oats waving in the breeze.

Birds were present, but not plentiful. Two tiny Least Terns ran along the waves, another pair of Willets flew when I approached, and Osprey and Brown Pelicans soared overhead. After walking a mile, I turned around, theoretically ready to continue my plan.

plover, shorebird, birding, nature, travel, florida

I’m glad now that I deviated from my pre-set schedule. Instead of turning off the beach and walking to the car, I sat on the sand, closing my eyes and leaning my face to the sky.

Turns out, this was the perfect way to see more species! When I opened my eyes, two Black-bellied Plovers were running barely ten feet in front of me, allowing for beautiful photo opportunities. A Great Blue Heron landed in the surf directly ahead of me, preening his shining feathers and matching perfectly with the blues and greens of the water below him. In the distance, I spied a flock of birds in a perfect V; when zooming in with my binoculars, I realized I was looking at a flock of White Ibises! Though they are common in Florida, it’s the first time I had ever seen them in my home town.

heron, florida, nature, wildlife, birding

If I had gone back to the car, I would have missed all three species. My secret to seeing more species? Cut the crazy and just sit still for a moment. Let the wildlife come to you!

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