Farther South

We left Dalton this morning in rain and fog, conditions that persisted throughout much of Georgia.  Within that moist haze, bird sightings were limited to flocks of starlings, rock pigeons and a crowd of black vultures that huddled on a billboard, awaiting the sun.  The rain stopped by the time we reached Cordele and the fog lifted as we approached Tifton; there, turkey vultures soared about on the welcome thermals and great egrets and herons began to appear along many of the ponds and sloughs that line the Interstate; the afternoon temperature was 68 degrees F, almost thirty degrees warmer than the morning low in Dalton.

Just south of the Florida line, a flock of sandhill cranes circled above the highway; two more flocks would be seen over Paynes Prairie, south of Gainesville.  A few bald eagles were also observed in central Florida and, as we neared Tampa, cattle egrets and white ibis appeared along the Interstate and out in the pastures.  By the time we reached Tampa Bay, the sun had dropped below the Gulf of Mexico and lines of double-crested cormorants and brown pelicans, backed by the pink sunset, headed for their nighttime roosts.

Though none of today's sightings would qualify as unexpected observations, they were exceptionally welcome after more than fifteen hours of traveling through drizzle and fog; indeed, I cannot remember any past road trip that was characterized by such dreary conditions over such a long distance.  Unfortunately, the weather proved to be the unexpected feature of this journey, one that I would have gladly done without.