At seven in the morning, I jolted awake, feeling as if I had overslept. In reality, it was my day off work and the first day in a week that I had slept in past five.
I looked out the window to see that the world was still dark. The recent time change meant that sunrise was later than I was used to. And it meant that my partner at the time and I would have just enough time to get to the tower at Robinson Preserve to watch the sun make its daily debut.
“Rise and shine!” I called to him, hoping he’d be willing to go on an adventure with me before he had to go to work that morning.
Begrudgingly, he pulled himself out of bed, got dressed, and gathered his camera gear.
We stepped outside into the humid morning. There was the tiniest hint of a chill left from the night before, but we knew it would be gone as soon as the sun made an appearance. The car ride was silent as we drove to the nearby nature preserve.
By the time we arrived, the sky had lightened, and the pale blue expanse was interrupted only by a few pastel pink clouds near the horizon.
The world continued to get brighter as Josh and I made our way to the tower.
We were delighted to discover that nobody else was at the tower that early in the morning. We leaned against the railing and looked out at the world, as the horizon started to glow and animals started to wake up and make noise.
Soon, the sun popped up from behind the trees in the distance and bathed everything in golden light. From the tower, we could see the Sunshine Skyway bridge through the haze, Anna Maria Island across the sound, and beautiful expanses of trees.
We watched until most of the colors had left the sky and the few wispy clouds turned to white against the light blue sky.
Finally, we descended from the tower to observe the wildlife at ground level.
And this is where the fun really began.
As we walked along the path back to the car, we stopped several times to watch the birds we encountered. At first, we just saw a few lone ibis. One hiding by the grassy shore, and another hunting for fiddler crabs in the sand.
I was ecstatic that I was able to see the hungry ibis gobble up a crab whole, and after that thrilling display, we moved on, admiring the gorgeous landscapes that surrounded us.
Our inadvertent bird hunt continued during our return journey. Every time we heard a rustle in the grass or a splash of water, we searched for the source of the noise; every time, we discovered a winged friend enjoying the morning.
Many of the birds we encountered were loners, like the duck hiding in the grass in this picture.
But near the end of our walk, we discovered a pond that was teeming with activity.
Most of the birds glowed in the sunlight, with the exception of the bright pink spoonbill that stood out amid all the white bodies. This was the bird that immediately caught my eye, and I couldn’t pull myself away until I had finished giggling at the silly thing.
In its search for food, it walked around head down with its beak swishing back and forth in the water. As if that weren’t a funny enough sight on its own, this spoonbill paid no attention to the other birds and repeatedly barged into them without seeming to notice. I couldn’t stop grinning at this crazy bird’s behavior!
Finally, we pulled ourselves away from the scene and rushed back to the car so we could get to work on time.
If it hadn’t been for our schedule, we would have stayed out there much longer. But I think that’s what I love so much about living in Florida: there’s so much nature that it doesn’t take much effort to work little doses of it into our daily lives. Sometimes it’s just as simple starting the day with a sunrise and a smile.