Bird matins (and vespers) and manatees

I have left the eagle cam for the bald eagles nesting in our neighborhood running on my computer for several days now. Most of the birds in our area (the only exception are owls) are most active in the very early morning hours. Around 6 a.m. every morning, the birds get quite loud. They are a natural alarm clock. I woke up yesterday and walked into the office to check on the eaglet, and my husband said that he had been listening to the eagles squawking and screaming as he worked. (Judging by his tone, it was rather distracting.) It had never occurred to me that bald eagles had been included in our sunrise chorus. And I’ve only been worried about an osprey making off with our Jack Russell terrier…. Fortunately, the eagles seem to prefer sea food above everything else, and they have plenty of it available.

Birds have a hilariously reverent relationship with the Sun. One time, as we were walking on the beach in Sarasota (on the Gulf side of Florida, south of Tampa), we saw an enormous flock of shorebirds sitting in the dunes. The birds had all gathered to watch the sunset. No kidding. There were hundreds – maybe even thousands – of them, sitting in neat rows gazing westward. As the Sun ducked behind the water, the birdsong became deafening. Then they all scattered.

Of course, birds use the stars for navigation, and the Sun is the most important star for all life on Earth. From a recent study:

When Alerstam and his colleagues plotted the routes taken by shorebirds, they found that migrating plovers and sandpipers were curving ever more southward as they flew east. The researchers ruled out other orientation cues and discovered the birds were using a sun compass, they report in the 12 January issue of Science. But the birds’ internal clocks can’t keep up with their nonstop movement, apparently, and they become out of phase with local time. By failing to compensate for their movement across time zones, they misread the sun’s position and veer increasingly southward. But this fortuitous mistake allows the birds to fly south in trajectories approximating the great circle routes that minimize travel distance, saving them valuable energy

Anyway, in addition to the eagle cam, I have also discovered that there are manatee cams to track the manatees that gather at Blue Springs State Park, which is about an hour away from here. I am trying to decide if it is worth driving out there this weekend (assuming work projects allow us to get away) or if there will not be many manatees.

Florida has over a thousand natural springs that form beautiful, clear rivers. The manatees swim up to these springs in the cold months because they have stable temperatures in the 70s. Like most Floridians, manatees cannot survive for very long once their environment ducks into the 60s or below. We have had some chilly days recently, but not that chilly.

Living on the Intracoastal Waterway, it is not unusual to see manatees from time to time year-round. But it would be neat to see them in these numbers, all in one place sometime.

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