I know we have all heard the saying, “birds of a feather flock together,” but I now have proof positive that it is true! Every year in January, I attend the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville, Florida. One of the field trips advertised during the event is the Gull Fly-in at Daytona Beach Shores.

Reportedly, gulls gather here each night in huge flocks of up to 30,000. What! Why had I not heard about this before! This was something I wanted to see for myself. As a local, I did not need to wait for the Festival field trip and arrived at the gathering spot late in the afternoon on a blustery January day.

And, there they were – gulls standing along the shoreline as far as I could see. How on earth could I ever hope to photograph such an overwhelming number of birds? It was the Grand Canyon in feathery form; awesome, but REALLY hard to capture in one picture.

I came home with many (poor) attempts, and the photos featured here do not show how wonderful it was to see this in person. However, my delight at seeing the huge flock and being in its midst was replaced with dismay as I found out how selfish humans can be.

Gulls on Florida shores are tolerant of humans, and they allow us to draw near if we approach quietly and slowly.

Apparently, it is not enough for some to appreciate the gulls as they gather and rest on the shoreline, some standing with bills and often feet tucked in their feathers for warmth. No, these humans want to see large numbers of birds flying up in the air. I watched parents urge small, laughing children to run at the birds; and I saw adult photographers race toward the flock, all causing the birds to take off again and again.

Upset at first, I speculated that these folks might be tourists and did not fully understand their actions despite the fact that there are signs posted on our beaches saying not to harass the wildlife. I decided to take the educational approach. Admittedly, it took me a while to do so because it is not easy to speak up to strangers; one never knows what the reaction will be.

When one of the little running boys drew near, I asked him quietly not to disturb the birds as they needed to rest and stay warm. He returned to his parents, and they left. The fun was over? The adult photographer admitted he just wanted to see them fly up to get that “cool shot.” He also stopped chasing them and started asking questions about this wonderful sight. Progress!

Will I speak up again? Most likely. Who knows? In doing so, I may even save a bothersome human from harm at at some time in the future. The next group of animals being harassed might not be as passive about the intrusion as the gulls. :-) Lyn

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