My parents and I generally do things on the spur of the moment, so when it came to us going on the boat to watch the birds roost the other night, we were ready. My dad and I were sitting in the living room watching TV when my mom turned the corner, talking about how pretty the sunset was going to be tonight. “Hey, let’s go watch the sunset and the birds fly to the roost y’all,” she gleamed.
I looked down to check my watch, “It’s 6:47, let’s go!” Dad and I jumped off the couch and I ran into my room, threw on some comfy clothes and ran out the door. We drove down to Chokoloskee where our boat was parked on the lift. I glanced to my left to look at the bright ball of fire slowly starting to descend. A great blue heron squawked from the shoreline near the entrance to Chokoloskee, and an alligator gracefully swam towards the docks of the marina. Mom and I climbed into the boat after dad let the boat down into the water, and we were off.
As we idled through the dark, calm waters, little fish began to jump from the docks nearby. Flying through the water is my favorite part of boating. The wind rushes against your face and hugs your body, while the waves crashing into the boat cause sprinkles of water to tickle your skin. All around us, birds began flying towards our destination. Groups of three and ten, and even a loner or two were racing towards the roost. Finally, we arrived. The mangroves in front of us were filled with birds roosting and landing from the air onto its branches. The view reminded me of a Christmas tree in winter, with ornaments placed among the greenery, lighting up the room. White Ibis, pelicans, snowy egrets, seagulls, and great egrets decorated the mangroves, top to bottom. As one would land, another would jump into the air from the tree and fly around until it found another spot to roost.
My dad turned off the boat, and soon the wind carried their voices to the boat. Their symphony cannot be compared to birds you hear chirping cheerfully in trees outside your home. The birds singing from the roost sounded raspy and their song, choppy. To some, their sounds mixed together would not produce a song that is pleasing to the ears, but to us it was magical. The fact that we are able to experience their presence in their natural habitat is more than a blessing. The sun began to glow brighter with each second, as it descended behind the mangroves. The roost became a silhouette against the orange and blue sky, and the birds flying across the water from mangrove to mangrove looked like slow dragonflies gliding through the air. Its moments like these that make me appreciate living in the Everglades more than I already do. Unfortunately, one thing we have that is not so pleasant are sand gnats or “no see’ums,” who tend to come out after the sunsets.
We decided it was time to head in after getting bit a few times. The sound of the motor caused the birds’ voices to slowly drift away as we ran back in. Boating around the island towards the marina we passed the Smallwood Store and island homes of our friends and family members that made my heart swell with love. Not only do I get to live in paradise, but I get to share it with our friends and the people we love. Idling back in, I glanced up at the navy-blue sky and watched the stars pop out into view. The crescent moon smiled happily down at us, as it watched us step out of the boat onto the dock. In my life so far, I’ve learned that it’s the little things that make me happy and grateful. Spending time with my family and going on mini adventures last minute create memories that I know will last a lifetime.
If you’re interested in watching the birds of the Everglades fly to their roosts, there are numerous ways to do so. You can go by boat to their roost off of Chokoloskee, or by car there are roots along Tamiami Trail and down Birdon Road in Ochopee. Whichever one you do will give you a unique experience and deeper appreciation of the birds of the Everglades.