Ordinarily, we hightail it out of here at the end of March, heading for cooler climates. But being marooned in Florida is offering up some unexpected delights, from fireflies to flamingos.
A Flamingo? Really?
Despite the vast quantities of plastic pink flamingos found in Florida, real live flamingos are scarce outside of zoos or amusement parks. But just a few days ago, we had the thrill of hanging out with a wild flamingo.
In November 2018, Hurricane Michael relocated an American Flamingo from the Yucatan to St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Panhandle. “Pinky,” as the flamingo is affectionately called by adoring fans, seems to like it there, and has become something of a celebrity.
I, of course, needed to see Pinky. St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge is one of our favorite wildlife refuges, and at only 60 miles away, it took nothing for me to convince Eric to spend a day there birding. We arrived at the refuge mid-morning and headed immediately for the pond where Pinky is known to spend time.
Alas, I didn’t take into consideration that even with the help of binoculars, Pinky was going to be just a pink dot on the horizon.
“Let’s put the kayak in!” I suggested. “No way,” said Eric. “The water is four inches deep and I’m not dragging the kayak through the mud in an alligator-infested pond.”
So we put the kayak in. We did, however, wait a couple of hours for high tide, when the water was six inches deep. One of the benefits of a kayak is that you can paddle in a puddle.
It was worth the effort. We hung out with Pinky (not too close, we didn’t want to disturb him) and just admired him.
Flamingos stand five feet tall, with a wingspan of up to 50 inches. When young, they’re a pale gray color. Their flamboyant adult pink plumage comes from eating crustaceans and algae.
Shallow, brackish waters like this pond are just the kind of place flamingos love. They stir up mud with their feet and sweep their heads from side to side, keeping their large bills beneath the surface of the water to capture food. Their unique backward-curved bills have comb-like plates that act as a sieve.
A Few More Flamingo Colored Things
There’s plenty to entertain us in the backyard here. The spring migration of birds has been outstanding. But for this post, I’m sticking with the theme of “flamingo colored.”
Sending hugs to all of you from north Florida. We hope you’re doing well.
WOW!!!!!! Your stay at home is certainly working for you. LOVEEEE that flamingo. Awesome shot….home as it’s adventure as well as getting a lot done. Some days you just chill back and photograph. Rose breasted grosbeaks have me smiling. The chickadees are feeding so have has mealy worms for them. They must eat 125 a day.,,,every few hours I put out a few…talk about greedy…no sharing that dish….LOVE your posts…
Thanks, Julie! We are having a wonderful time with our feathered friends here. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been visiting us, as well. Love getting your email updates and photos!
We sorta have the same love of the outside.
I love HWY 395 Eastern Sierras of CA. Since 1972 we go there for 3 weeks & cover about 1,100 miles on each trip. Lakes, rivers, mountains, old towns, historic locations & many unusual places….
I make a DVD disc called HWY 395 Outer-Limits. 1 hour 30 minutes.
I make about 300 each year! Give them away to friends & people on vacation I meet & also to Parks…If parks sell them Average price is $20.00. They keep no money! All goes back to park restoration.
Email me a reply and if you guys want it. Will need a mailing address.
Bob Harris Northridge, CA
Thanks, Bob. Eric has emailed you. Hope you’ll be able to travel along 395 this summer or fall and continue with your wonderful project!
St Marks is one of our favorites also and we have seen Pinky for a couple of years now. We usually stay at Newport RV Park just a short bike ride to the refuge. As you we are staying at home here in Fl at our home in Floral City. And, we had a Rose breasted grosbeak at our feeder yesterday along with all the regulars, titmice,chickadees, bluebirds,cardinals,crows, pine and palm warblers, parula warbelers, cat bird, on and on. Saw young Lympkins from the kayak.
Oh, cool, so Pinky is an old friend for you! :-) We’ve stayed at Newport RV Park at least a dozen times in the past few years. As you said, it’s a wonderful place for exploring St. Mark’s and is a convenient stop-over for us as we travel to and from various places in Florida. Sounds like you’re enjoying the same birds at your feeders as we are at ours. We’re loving the spring migration along with the regular visitors.
Such a delight to hang out with wild critters. We enjoy having the antelope come by our house. And there is a hawk that likes to perch on the tree right in front of our deck. We hear birds chirping, and now the frogs are out adding to the chorus as well. The Governor of Colorado recommends not venturing more than 10 miles from our home base during the “safer at home phase” of social distancing. Not everyone is obeying, but we’re going to try and stick to that rule of thumb, so any visits to wetlands and such are going to have to be postponed for a while yet.
Erin, how wonderful to have antelope in your backyard! I just saw your bobcat photo…that was a cool sighting! Like you, we’ve also been enjoying the very loud ‘frog orchestra’ that plays every night here.
We’re in a remote part of Florida and in general, aren’t straying more than a few miles from home (when we leave at all) but the refuge is open and an easy place to maintain our social distancing.
Another lovely post, Laurel – so glad you’re blogging again. Your writing is a delight, with your photographs being the perfect compliment. This is our last week in South Texas – finally going to make the long trek back to PA. Meanwhile, in keeping with the theme, we’re enjoying Roseate Spoonbills here.
Thank you for your very kind comment, Janie. I’m happy to hear from you! I imagine South Texas has been a good place to be during the worst of the pandemic, but it must also be getting really hot by now. So glad that you’ve had the beautiful Roseate Spoonbills keeping you company. They’re always one of our favorites.
Safe travels as you make your way back home.
Mike got a chuckle out of putting in the kayak. It sounded familiar to him. Such a great area that you are in. We are sorry we missed it this year.
We’re sorry we didn’t get to see you two in Florida. We could have gone kayaking in an alligator-infested mud puddle together, LOL.
What a treat and wonderful photographs!
Thanks, Ingrid! Kayaking with Pinky was definitely a treat.
How wonderful to see a flamingo in the wild! I’m glad you were able to get a closer view, as you got some stunning shots. Looks like it was a perfect day for an outing.
And fireflies! We used to enjoy watching them from our front porch or back deck when we lived in Nebraska.
Stay well! Looking forward to some travel posts. :)
Les, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to see a wild flamingo. Who knows where or when that might happen again, if ever? And the fireflies are truly magical. There are many good things about being in Florida right now.
I’m glad you’re looking forward to our travel posts. It inspires me to get back to them. :-)
Fireflies, I sure do miss & ’em since moving out west!
Pinky is a fine-looking fellow. Will he get lonely being the only one of his kind there? Do they have any idea how old he is? How do they know it’s a boy? Do alligators eat flamingos?
You better let Eric eat as many brownies as he wants for his endless indulgences!!
Ahem, how did I know you were going to be asking questions? I agree that Pinky is a fine-looking flamingo.
1. I imagine he is lonely, given that flamingos are very social creatures. I wish he had a companion or 50.
2. He is somewhere between 2 and 60. I say that because flamingos get their pink feathers after a couple of years and can live to 60.
3. I don’t actually know that he’s a boy, but I dislike the whole he/she thing, so I randomly decide at the moment.
4. It’s unlikely that an alligator could take an adult flamingo.
No. Eric cannot have as many brownies as he wants, because he does not ever make them, LOL.
Your photos of Pinky are outstanding! Montana isn’t so bad this year–we are here about a month early but it’s where we decided we wanted to be to wait out this crisis.
Thank you, Janna! It’s great to hear from you. Montana sounds like a wonderful place to be at any time. And it’s going to be especially perfect once the temps start heating up further south. Enjoy your beautiful home!
“So we put the kayak in.” HAHAHAHAHA! Love it!
It was obviously well worth the effort though. What an outstanding series of photographs, and such a stunning creature!
Fireflies seem to be a rarity these days. I remember there used to be tons of them in the Summer, but they seem to be few and far between now. That’s great that there are still a ton of them where you are. You paint a vivid picture with your description.
Oh, and your sunset pelican photo need to be in a frame on a wall ASAP! Just gorgeous!
Laura, the best part is that you know I’m not kidding about our kayaking debate, right? Eric was really happy once we paddled out and spent some time with Pinky. He just needs to trust my instincts and admit that I am always right, LOL.
Oh, how I love seeing the fireflies! I didn’t realize how much I had missed them all these years on the West Coast. I guess we’re lucky that they are still so abundant here. Makes sense, since Florida has no lack of bugs.
Thanks for your nice comment about our photos. :-)
Wow what great pictures and you are seeing such beautiful things. How’s the packing going? Were you able to get the house in sellable condition? I can imagine what a
chore it is and even think of it with regard to our house. The weather here has gone from
lots and lots of rain to 91+ degrees and the pool is coming alive again! Are you ready to
take off again when the quarantine is lifted?
Kaitlyn is taking finals now via home internet and then she will have to go to Waco to move her things out of her dorm room into storage somewhere till hopefully the next school year starts. All grandkids are fine but very restful, they all miss their friends.
Stay safe and well and enjoy spring in Florida.
Hi Penny, I’m glad you’re enjoying our Florida photos! We’re enjoying being here and the weather has mostly been beautiful. The house is ready to put on the market, but we’re not ready to leave. We have no idea when we’ll leave, or where we’ll go…everything is just so uncertain right now. We’re happy to have a good place to be until we figure it out.
Glad to hear that everyone is doing well there; I bet the kids are getting restless! And the parents, haha!! Stay well—big hugs to all of you!
What a beautiful experience… and so glad the alligators left you and Pinky alone! Your parents place seems magical… aren’t you tempted to buy it?
Brenda, my folks’ place really is magical, as you said. It’s such a gorgeous environment with both the woods and the bay. We’re tempted to stay here, but we wish it wasn’t so far from the West Coast, where we have family and friends (and our home in Oregon!). It’s hard to have more than one place that we love.
And we’re very happy that there were no gators in that shallow pond where Pinky hangs out. :-)
What a beautiful flamingo!
We had been thinking of going kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon recently…that was until we heard that a 10 foot Great White shark pinged a few miles north of our campground…in the lagoon. Yikes!
A great white shark?? That’s terrifying! I will never, ever even consider kayaking in the Indian River Lagoon. I’m cautious around alligators but not afraid, because they don’t attack kayaks. A great white shark, however…I would be so anxious I wouldn’t have fun.
Hope you guys are doing well! Are you heading to Michigan this summer?
Fun in the sun! Nice photos!
Thanks, John! I wish you and Judy were with us to kayak and have more Florida adventures. Hugs to you both!
I love fireflies, and they are mesmerizing in the dusk.
Oh wow, so there is really a flamingo at St Mark’s! Remember when we were there last year and we met a lady who told us about the flamingo? And when we told you, you did not believe it thinking the lady was on glue, and that perhaps what she saw was the Spoonbill! Well, we believe her now! Ha ha ha, and the best way to see her up close is a kayak.
A wonderful set of “flamingo” colored nature.
ML, I had completely forgotten about that!! So yes, that woman really did see a flamingo and I didn’t believe her! People often confuse Roseate Spoonbills with American Flamingos because the color is similar. My bad!
I wish you guys had been with us on that little kayak adventure. I know you would have loved it! And you know there was no way I was leaving there without seeing Pinky up close. :-) I’m glad you liked our flamingo-colored nature theme.
Awesome photos of Pinky’s yoga moves and stretches! The kayak is definitely a perfect tool for wildlife watching in this environment. I hope Pinky doesn’t get lonely being the only one of his kind around; I always think about flamingos being in large flocks. I am so glad that you and Eric are finding these cool places so we can eventually explore them also.
Thanks, Shannon—Pinky does have some pretty spectacular yoga moves. We had fun watching and photographing him. We always love kayaking, but this was an extra-special wildlife kayak trip.
I also wonder about how Pinky is faring being all alone. He was honking as we paddled by, which is a greeting call, and not a distress call. I wish there was at least one other flamingo to keep him company—or preferably 100 more. As you said, they like being in big flocks.
How wonderful the fireflies have come to spend time with you! I’m sure they’re loving the “less humans” aspect of these times. Seeing the area in a different season has it’s rewards :-)
Of course you put the kayak in :-))))) Pinkie is gorgeous and looks really healthy. Sad that he’s the only one there though :-(
Love all your Flamingo colored captures, my very favorite color.
Hugs to you and Eric.
Flamingo is my very favorite color, too, Jodee. Even more than purple! But it’s hard to find flamingo-colored clothing…although I have been finding some here in Florida and I’m tempted. :-)
I like what you said about the fireflies coming to spend time with us. It does feel like a blessing from nature, especially because there aren’t many places left with fireflies in abundance.
Hugs to you and Bill, and enjoy your flamingo-colored Arizona sunsets!
Oh, my! The flamingo photos are spectacular!! Wow! What a gorgeous creature! I am so glad you kayaked out to get closer so we could see all the details of this big guy. Thanks! So many other pretty flamingo colored treasures. Beautiful sunset!
Thanks, Pam! I know you like the big birds, so I’m glad we could get some photos to share with you. :-) Who knows if we’ll ever again kayak with a flamingo? That might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It truly has been beautiful here. We’re making the most of every day and finding adventures close by, just like you guys are doing in the desert landscape. We feel so fortunate to be surrounded by so much natural beauty.
I love St. Marks Refuge and have visited several times, but I have never heard about Pinky. Thanks for sharing his story. Next time, I will take a long lens and hope for a sighting. P.S. St. Mark Refuge has a photo club on FaceBook. I am sure they would love to see your photographs of Pinky. Take care and enjoy North Florida at its best time of year!
I’m happy to hear from you, Suzanne. Thanks for the suggestion to check in with the refuge—we would be delighted to share photos if they’re interested. And I look forward to seeing your photos!
We’re enjoying our extended stay here. I haven’t spent a summer in Florida for about 30 years…so we’ll see how it goes. But so far, so good! I think I’ll need a wading pool come June, LOL.
OK, color me bright green. A flamingo, A FLAMINGO!!!!!!! And so close you could kayak near to it. Boy you are living the life. What fantastic pictures. You amaze me. Color coordinated anole, hibiscus and sunset. If there has to be a pandemic you sure are in the perfect place. Hugs to you and Eric
Sherry, we were so lucky to see a flamingo. I thought of you and how you would have loved that kayaking adventure with us. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. Hugs to you, too.
Ahhh love flamingoes. Beautiful photos Laurel and great kayak story hahaha.
My very first experience with seeing them was as a teenager when I went with my parents to Namibia (South West Africa) and saw them en masse in a lake. It was an experience I will never ever forget. Speaking of flamingoes, I don’t know if you saw the photos but Mumbai in India has been inundated with huge flocks of them now during the pandemic. So much so that it has been dubbed “The pink city”. For once they can roost and brood without disturbance in areas that USED to be their natural habitats.
Beautiful post! Love fireflies too…. That brown anole is gorgeous.
Peta, that must have been an incredible experience to see an enormous flock of flamingos! And despite the tragedy of the pandemic, I love that there are some good things happening, like the flamingos returning to their natural habitat. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. :-)
What a cool sighting, Laurel! And, of course the kayak went in the water. LOL! We love our spoonbills, and would love to add a flamingo to our list.
We really enjoy our firefly sightings in Michigan, but they are much more rare than in our youth. They say that outdoor LED lighting, such as landscape lighting, has had a negative impact.
We finally made the tough decision to come home. We did it in a much more rushed trip than normal, armed with masks, freshly made bottle of sanitizer, disposable gloves for gas stations, prepared foods, our own pillows to sleep on. We arrived home on Thursday, and are healthy, but we are quarantined for 14 days, except for taking Pipa outside. Small towns are understandably very nervous about snowbirds & travelers returning, but this is our only home, so we had to do it. As such, we’ll follow the recommendations. We’ve even posted signs in our windows, stating that we’ll emerge on May 15.
Karen, I’m so glad to hear that you’ve safely returned home. I can only imagine how stressful that long trip must have been. I hope your summer will be peaceful. We’ve decided to cancel our Michigan plans this summer (with great regret, I must say).
Maybe next winter on your way down to Cedar Key you can stop to see the flamingo at St. Mark’s! And hopefully, we will get to see you. Take good care and enjoy your summer.
I love flamingo colored things! And, I love that your sweet husband called you outside to share some of nature’s wonders with him…..fireflies and jasmine (sounds like the title of a romance novel doesn’t it?) Stay safe and stay in touch.
Sue, isn’t that the best, that I have a husband who notices and wants to share fireflies and jasmine? You have one cut from the same cloth. We’re lucky, indeed. :-)
“So we put the kayak in”LOL Stay safe from Sanibel island.
There was no way I was leaving there without kayaking with the flamingo, lol. It’s good to hear from you, Rose….enjoy your extended time on Sanibel!