Daily Archives: May 7, 2014

Birds, Aids to Navigation

By Vladimir Brezina

What’s wrong with this picture? (Click on it to examine it in more detail.)

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There’s a bird standing right where we are headed!

Nigel Foster, in his book on Florida kayaking, tells a humorous story about his researches into the length of various birds’ legs, with a view to using them as a measure of the depth of water in which the birds were standing.

I thought it was just a good story—but that was before we started paddling in Florida. Then I realized that it is actually a very practical measure.

There is so much shallow water in the Florida Everglades—especially in Florida Bay, where it is often just inches deep—and so many birds, that it sometimes seems that all shoals have at least one bird standing on them. You can see the birds from far off.

And if you see a standing bird, you want to keep clear of that spot. The water is too shallow, even for a kayak.

Bird and dolphin

On the other hand, if you see a dolphin, you can probably pass ;-)

A more practiced eye, like Nigel’s, will notice the length of leg immersed. If you don’t see the knees of a large egret or heron, you might be OK.

Heron standing

But if you see gulls standing, you really don’t want to go there!

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This last photo was taken on Long Island, NY—so the rules seem to apply beyond Florida, although more research in the field is clearly required… ;-)