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Category: mark hedden

WILD THINGS: BIRD MIGRATION IN THE KEYS

You want to see signs of rain when you wake — puddles that weren’t there the night before, maybe wet streets. You don’t want it to have rained too early in the evening. Sometime between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m. is best, though later still works. You want the birds that left Cuba and parts south just after sunset to have hit the weather over the Keys, to know their migration was done for the night, and to set down. You want it to rain enough that, after the birds have given up on the evening’s long-haul flight, they don’t keep moving forward on short hops. That’s how it works in my head, at least....

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WILD THINGS: NORTHERN GANNETS ARE THE POINTY-HEADED MOUTH-BREATHERS OF THE SEA

The wind was up, so it was likely to be “sporty” crossing the Northwest Channel, but as I cleared the anchorage behind Wisteria Island and moved through the first set of channel markers, it was surprisingly calm. I kept waiting for waves to break over the bow and they didn’t. About halfway to Mule Key, a low line of birds came towards me – big, white, fast-moving. I got a little excited, threw the engine into neutral, and felt the stern lift as the wake caught up to the boat. The lead bird rose up over the water, and all the birds behind him rose, too, then he dropped down, and all the birds...

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WILD THINGS: SINGING WITHOUT KNOWING THE WORDS

There’s an oft-quoted line from “To Kill A Mockingbird”: “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy … but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” I mean, it’s a lovely sentiment, and a poignant metaphor that plays out throughout the book, but the problem is, it wouldn’t hold up in bird court. It’s the repeated phrase “for us” that’s the rub because, like more things than we care to admit in the world, it’s not really about us humans. (Though, to be clear, it is still a sin to kill a mockingbird.) Bird song, as far as we know, tends to...

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