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Humans could learn a lot from birds flocking together

In recent weeks I have noticed that Florida is really for the birds. I sit on my screened patio or in my kitchen and can watch as the wildlife wend their way back north, east or west by way of the pond behind our house. It is amazing all the different species that arrive and depart.

I was always taught that birds of a feather flock together. That isn't necessarily so. I have observed cormorants, greater and lesser egrets, wood storks, ibises, ducks and my little blue bird along with Great blue herons, all walk around the pond together. They mingle like they don't know they are different.

The greater egrets have yellow bills and black feet. The lesser egrets have black bills and yellow feet. They look like they are wearing clown shoes.

The other day I counted 24 of the white birds all parading around the pond. I said to my husband, who was doing his morning crossword puzzle, "Look! It's a bird party!" He just gave me one of those, "Oh, here she goes again" looks.

But it was interesting watching just which bird decided it would be the leader of the mismatched flock. One would take a little jump and the rest would follow. They went from back yard to back yard until they made their way all around the pond. Occasionally, the blue heron would try and let the white birds know that he was boss.

But try as he may, sometimes he was driven out by one of the little birds who was bound and determined to get the fish that swam near the shore. Might does not always make right.

In the pond, there were 11 cormorants leisurely floating, gathering fish. I loved to watch them as they swim and dive simultaneously. They are like Esther Williams and her water ballerinas. They were interrupted at times by an osprey that would dive from the sky and grab a fish and head back toward the clouds.

On the pond there was also a pair of hooded merganser ducks. Both are males. That particular species of duck swim in pairs of males. I am amazed by that. I don't know where the females are hidden. I have never seen a female hooded merganser, but the males are so graceful.

I wish I could swim as easily as they do. They glide effortlessly across the water. Their heads are adorned with deep blue feathers. As they swim you can see the pure white on either side of their bodies and the white ring around their necks. Their tail feathers and back feathers are a light brown. When they open their wings, you can see a splash of red for even more brillance. They remind me of the mallards up north.

On shore, there were hundreds of robins all searching for worms in the grass. I didn't realize Florida had as many worms as it has birds. One of these days, when Mother Nature says it is time, the robins will head north. Maybe some of them will even go to my home town of Magnolia, Ohio.

If I could, I would tag one of them and then ask my children who are still there if they happen to spy the robin with the tag from Florida.

But I could spend hours just watching the birds and wildlife and avoid doing housework, which I usually do anyway. Watching birds is my excuse for now. The only thing I am missing right now is my friend, Blinky the alligator. He will be coming back to the pond soon. I know it is him because he has one eye encircled in orange. I call him Blinky because when he comes close to my back yard, I will go out and blink at him. He blinks back.

He is only a little guy, and I am very careful not to feed him or anger him in any way. Usually when he sees someone coming, he ducks under the water and glides away. He may be bigger when he comes back. I don't know how fast alligators grow.

Before the cold weather set in, we had another alligator, much bigger, which I called Alli-gator, with an accent on tor. He didn't bother anyone, but he was awfully large.

I liked watching him lying on the bank in the sun. He was quite beautiful. Some people think alligators are ugly. I think they are a great creation of nature. That is, as long as they don't eat my cat, Ed Norton.

But Ed is not allowed outside, so I don't have to worry about that. I also don't want him to eat those hooded mergansers. I bet those feathers would tickle a lot going down. I've never seen an alligator with duck feathers hanging out of its mouth, so maybe I don't have to worry about that, either.

Several days ago, after the rain, I passed the small airport in Crystal River. The airfield was covered with hundreds of sea gulls. I couldn't help but wonder what brought them into town. They, too, are probably on their way to somewhere else. Maybe they stopped at the airport to check on their flight plan. But, then, everyone has to be somewhere.

I am so grateful that I have the opportunity to observe wonderful wildlife in Florida. Ohio has birds, but they are all so little that you miss a lot of them. I think it is great that the birds stop at my house in Florida before they go back home for the warmer weather. Some will stay and for that I am very happy.

I feel the same way about human snowbirds. It's nice that they choose this section of the country to cure their cabin fever. I always miss the ones I know until they return. But, God willing, they will return.

It is also nice to know that humans, whose feathers don't match, can get along just like the birds do. If the birds can endure other birds that are not quite like themselves, then we, as humans, should be able to do the same. Like the birds, I like all living things. I don't care where they live, what they look like, or what they hang with. (I may make exception to poisonous snakes, but a snake has to do what a snake has to do.) Creatures, human or not, should be respected for their differences, not loved for their likeness.

So, to all you snowbirds who have stopped off for a visit on your way back north, I wish you a safe flight, or trip. May your road be warm and carefree. But be sure y'all come on back, ya hear?

Thought for the day: It's not the road you travel, it's how you travel it and where it takes you.

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