Low Tide Bonanza

It was low tide on Sarasota Bay early this morning, producing broad mudflats and vast shallows near our condo.  Large mixed flocks of waders scoured those feeding grounds, including great blue, tricolored and little blue herons, great, snowy and reddish egrets, roseate spoonbills and wood storks.  Flotillas of American white pelicans fed in unison, belted kingfishers chattered above the shallows and green herons, black-crowned and yellow-crowned night herons hunted beneath the mangrove borders.

Double-crested cormorants and red-breasted mergansers, which usually dive for their meals, merely stuck their heads beneath the surface to grab their prey.  Larger fish had been forced into the boat channel, improving the success of dolphins, ospreys, bald eagles and brown pelicans that hunt those deeper waters.  Attracted by this feeding frenzy, laughing gulls arrived to steal what they could while royal and least terns dove to catch their own fingerlings.  Finally, shorebirds and raccoons perused the mudflats, feasting on a host of mollusks, crustaceans and other marine invertebrates.

Low tide provides a feeding bonanza for a wide variety of species and a viewing bonanza for those of us who enjoy watching the spectacle.  Over an hour or two, one can stroll along the shore, observing most of the water birds that inhabit the region.  And, if you miss the show, it will play out again in about twelve hours!