Was it George C Scott that said? “I love the smell of bird poo in the morning, it smells like… victory!”
Well, maybe not… but if he’d have kayaked in St. Petersburg with me the other day to a BIRDING island between St Pete and Treasure Island where the great Blue herons nest alongside pelicans, egrets, spoonbills & cormorants he might have!
Approaching the shallow, smelly, shelly, shoal (say it 3 times fast) from the downwind side ranks high on my list of “bad ideas”. I slammed into the invisible stinkwall nearly 100 yards from the island. The pungent smell of bird poo literally took my breath away! My lungs burned as the last breath of fresh air was replaced with ammonia vapors. My head spun and twisted as I gasped & thrashed for air. Then oddly enough, in a spastic moment of clarity, I found relief in my armpit!
Drifting quietly past the heavily painted & active nests I closed my eyes and it sounded remarkably like a recent picnic I attended. The chatty volume of several families huddled together rose to a dull roar. In the playground above, the older osprey boys were playing aerial tag with a mullet and the whining gulls tagging along screaming “fowl, fowl, fowl!” The ladies discussed the finer techniques of plumage protection, chick care, and where to get fresh fish. Mrs. Heron was very passionate on describing how Jr. over there nearly choked to death on a tailbone of a pinfish. “Little missy is one thing, but that boy over there is nothing but trouble!”
Oh sure, they talked about the fine weather we’re having and the fresh Spring breeze, but one topic was unanimous - “How a fresh rain could really benefit the Pelican boys who are in serious need of a bath!” Oh and don’t forget about the grand opening of the dead oak tree just over yonder ‘cause it’s all the rave for new nesting products – certainly the Ikea store of the bird world. Every rookery picnic has a proud parent that brags about their kids too – “How fast they’ve grown & how handsome they’ve become” and “Oh, my little Suzie spoonbill is just so talented with her new spoon and… OMG…just look at her new pink plumage!” And in the rookery they have friends that use wing-and-feather gestures to help to communicate, just like us right?(if you don’t have a friend like this…you are the friend) Here it’s the Snowy egret. They bounce through the canopy waving and feathering frantically to anyone who gets near and a loud squawk with a beak pinch is never too much to get the point across.
There are also the quiet cormorants in the corner sitting alone. I heard that they fling poo to protect their nest. No wonder they’re alone! I once had this friend….oh never mind that. The point is; if you come across a stinky neighbor in your life, be considerate and keep in mind that in the bird world it’s just the smell of success!
Kurt Zuelsdorf. Writer, Urban Tracker, Outdoor Enthusiast at Kayak Nature Adventures kayak and sup rentals