Ring-billed Gull in flight over the GulfRing-billed Gull in flight over the Gulf – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1500, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 240mm, natural light, not baited

In 2009 I gave myself a belated birthday present by going to Honeymoon Island State Park in northern Pinellas County, Florida to photograph birds and dolphins. Going to the park can be frustrating because at that time the gates didn’t open until 8 a.m. which was later than I’d like because I love to be on the beach as the sun comes up.

But it was a glorious morning, the sky was mostly clear and the Gulf of Mexico was about the calmest I had ever seen it. The dolphins didn’t come in close to the shore but it was peaceful to see them gliding through the water while I walked to the far north end of the island. I was only about 1/4 of a mile from the parking lot when the people thinned out and I could savor the warmth of the winter sun, the sugar sand beneath my feet, the tang of salt in the air and the birds that flew gracefully by all by myself. I treasure moments like those.

Ospreys dove into the water fishing for breakfast, tiny shorebirds scurried along looking for prey in the floating mats of seaweed that had been pushed up against the shore overnight and the gulls flew by slowly always look down into the water for prey. Ring-billed Gulls are fairly common but as with any common bird I believe that they can be uncommonly beautiful.

This is such a simple image but when I view it I am transported back to that wonderful day.