By Carole Devillers
Why do I love thee? Well… your birds! I love your birds, Florida, your magnificent, gorgeous, resilient birds! I truly became aware of them when I moved to the Tampa Bay area three years ago.
My new passion led me to roam through your state parks, preserves, and refuges in search of wild rookeries – breeding and nesting colonies – and for the sheer delight of just observing and documenting as a photographer, how birds live. You have so many attractive nature parks, Florida, and some have captivated me such as Lettuce Lake Park in Hillsborough County, and more particularly the Circle B Bar Reserve near Lakeland. Depending on the season, one can observe an abundance of wildlife, graceful egrets, impassive Great Blue Herons, solitary Anhingas, nesting Barred Owls and Red-Shouldered Hawks, cotton candy-pink Roseate Spoonbills and a slew of other wading birds and songbirds. And in the spring, mating alligators bellow like roaring lions in the canal bordered by Spanish moss-covered trees: a real Halloween-ish sensation.
My excursions into your wilderness, Florida, have given me fantastic opportunities to appreciate our avian friends’ resilience and determination to make it in spite of the odds stacked against them, mainly due to human influence. Have we ever pondered, seriously pondered, how they live, how they manage to survive in our tarnished environment, how they can raise their families in the midst of all this human chaos? Certainly, the way we live in our jungles of concrete must look like chaos to them. At one time we slaughtered them for their magnificent feathers, or for their meat, and now we deprive them of habitat, we pollute the water they need, we crush their eggs on your alluring sandy beaches, inadvertently or intentionally. We have no respect, Florida, for your beautiful jewels of the sky. And that’s because we don’t take the time to understand them, letting selfishness and greed take over.
Your birds, Florida, are amazing creatures that need our attention and protection and should not be taken for granted, lest they disappear. Let’s just imagine an instant a world without birds… you, Florida, without birds… How sad and different it would be! So, let’s open our eyes and our hearts to let the birds in. Not only will this benefit our winged brothers, but it will do wonders to our souls also. And you, Florida, will forever remain the wild and beautiful emerald casing that I love so much.