Our World: The air show

With season in full swing, a large crowd stands along the beach, lining the edge of where the water meets the land. Dozens are lined up along the edge of Naples Pier, leaning ever so gently against the wooden railing.

Rough seas are providing a bit of entertainment this day, tossing young surfers about like bobbers on the ends of fishing lines.

Above the crashing waves come "oohs" and "ahhs" as heads tilt skyward toward a large mass approaching swiftly.

"Skimmers!" shouts someone in the crowd, and all heads turn to look as hundreds of the unique birds approach, swoop underneath the pier and head south in an undulating pattern of flight. Even with high winds and spotty rain, the light is just right. White bellies and black backs flash as the birds paddle through the turbulent air.

Scientifically named Rynchops, translated as beak face, the group of birds dives time and time again, seemingly to feed on the water's surface only to turn skyward as they approach the violent waves. Up and down the coast they go, perhaps thinking there are calmer waters just around the next bend. Only then can they drop low enough to dip their large, lower beak into the water to scoop up fish, crustaceans and invertebrates.

With the Black Skimmers headed south out of view, all heads turn back toward the bobbers in the water. Another day, another of nature's small specacles. They make our lives here in Southwest Florida that much richer.

© 2005 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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