In spring 2011 I became a volunteer at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. My role there is to count all the shorebirds and wildfowl at least every 2 weeks. I'm no stranger to counting birds; I've been counting them, for one job or another for 16 years. I love counting birds; it's one of my favorite things to do.
Counting ‘em is time consuming, especially at St Marks. Within my first few months I spent 65 hours and 23 minutes counting 13,296 shorebirds. One day, during a powerful gully gusher, which lasted for 45 minutes, shorebirds began dropping out of the sky to seek shelter on Mounds Pool 3. Amongst them was a flock of 53 Buff-breasted Sandpipers. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better an adult Hudsonian Godwit landed 100 feet from my truck. It was only the second one I'd ever seen in Florida! The birding gods were with me that day.
As well as all the thousands of shorebirds I've counted, I've witnessed a 12 foot bull alligator bellowing right in front of me, a Bobcat stalking meadowlarks, Monarch butterflies decorating the lighthouse salt bushes, a 6-foot Diamondback reluctant to have its picture taken, and a 12-point Buck strutting through the mist shrouded marsh. St Marks National Wildlife Refuges is one of Florida's special places and it's a privilege to be a volunteer there. Stunning scenery, peaceful serenity and wonderful wildlife awaits the would-be St Marks visitor. I can't wait for my next visit. Hope to see you down there!