Florida hosts many species of birds in the winter due to its mild climate. For some birds the Florida peninsula is the gateway to South American wintering spots. For others Florida is the place to be.
One of my favorite local places to see winter migrants is a tiny beach on the Gulf Coast – Fort Island Gulf Beach. During a recent trip there I was delighted to see 250 to 300 black skimmers flying in circles over the beach. A few descended upon the sandy shore and the rest followed. Just as the last of the flock set down, the first ones alighted to the air causing the flock to follow. The skimmers continued to soar over the area, landing briefly only to take off and repeat the behavior.
Though this was an impressive flock of birds, I imagine, if I traveled back in time before the black skimmer was hunted for its feathers causing near extinction and before we encroached on its nesting habitat, the numbers of birds would be tenfold or more. Instead of hundreds in the flock there were probably thousands upon thousands of birds. And if someone stands here 50 years from now will they be wowed by the sight of a meager dozen skimmers circling this small alcove. Time will tell.