One morning in Florida, while Monica and the boys went to Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park, I went birdwatching. I navigated the bus system to the landing at "Fort Wilderness," a campground that sprawls along Bay Lake. As I walked east away from the complex with its stores and dining halls, and golf carts, I was alone on a sandy shore. A turkey eyed me warily, but calmly. Winter warblers were active in the shoreline shrubs, and grackles and red-winged blackbirds were contesting noisily in the reeds. As I walked along, the reed mats were undulating calmly - or more violently if a boat had passed. Coots swam and moorhens stalked. A little blue heron stood motionless. I came to a canal where a large red-bellied turtle sunned itself. A bald eagle soared overhead among the vultures and ospreys.
I notice a Louisiana heron in the reeds -- called a tri-colored heron nowadays -- who suddenly hunkered down. A commotion was working its way down the shoreline. There were two dozen double breasted cormorants diving among a half dozen brown pelicans. But it was the accompanying flock of herons that was making the ruckus. A half dozen croaking great blue herons, two dozen white egrets, a handful of snowy egrets were flapping and fishing as they came. I saw a white egret trying to fly with a large sunfish and find a stable spot to swallow the thrashing thing. The blackbirds and grackles and belted kingfishers raised more noise. The flocks passed by me to the swampy eastern end of the lake, where they rose up to the cypress or disappeared down into the reedy marshes.
I crossed the canal and passed a locked and abandoned cabin. A hazy network of footpaths mazed through the undergrowth into a woods of cypress. Swallowtail and zebra longwing butterflies searched for flowers. I made my way along the shoreline. Red bellied woodpeckers were pounding on the trees. A cardinal came to check me out. I pushed through the shrubs to the marshy shoreline, stepping back when I began to sink. On a dead stump an anhinga spread her wings to dry. An alligator hunted among the coots and pied billed grebes, but the birds didn't seem fooled by the gator's log-like demeanor. A grebe swam alongside, a few feet away, until they both passed out of sight. A barred owl was calling from somewhere behind me, "who cooks for you? who cooks for you?"
I retraced my path back out of the cypress and the butterflies and walked up along the canal. Men were fishing there. I made my way out to meet Monica and the boys for lunch.