‘Florida … for the Birds’: Len Messineo shows audio-visual nature presentation at Marco Island museum

Len Messineo's photograph of white pelicans on a sand bar. Submitted

Len Messineo's photograph of white pelicans on a sand bar. Submitted

— Before he began his presentation, Len Messineo laid out what he said were the requirements for speaking in public. Messineo presented his audio-visual exploration of Florida’s avian population, entitled “Florida … for the Birds” Tuesday evening at the Rose History Auditorium at the Marco Island Historical Museum.

Quoting George Burns, Messineo said, “a successful presentation should have a good beginning, and a good ending, as close together as possible.” For those expecting Messineo to stand and lecture, though, what followed was a surprise.

The presentation, with many of Messineo’s images of Florida birds and related scenes, was all packaged, and shown on the screen complete with narration. Messineo sat with the crowd of nearly 100, listening to his recorded voice talk about the various birds shown. Occasionally, Len stopped the playback, and interjected live remarks, but primarily let the DVD do the talking.

The heart of the presentation was his nature photography, clearly the fruit of many hours spent sitting patiently, stalking our elusive feathered friends. He has collected many striking images, both closeups and action shots of individual birds, as well as scenic photographs showing the landscape, and masses of birds “flocking together.”

One advantage of the pre-recorded format, along with knowing it is exactly the words the presenter wants to say, with any pauses or false starts edited out, was the background track, with bird calls and ambient music adding to the atmosphere of the presentation.

Messineo covered the wading birds, including spoonbills, ibis, and herons. Each type of bird, it seems, has many variants, a frustration for the non-ornithologist who just wants to be able to answer with some degree of certainty “what kind of bird is that?”

There are green herons, tri-colored herons, great blue herons, and little blue herons. To further muddy the waters, sometimes the great blue heron is white. Unlike leopards, birds can and do “change their spots,” appearing in completely different suits of plumage at various times of year or stages of life.

Messineo’s photos showed rookery islands, and the alligators he said guard them and make it possible for the birds there to nest in peace, without raccoons and other predators feeling safe enough to swim out and eat up eggs and nestlings. He showed eagles and ospreys, and chided the larger eagle for stealing fish caught by the ospreys for their young.

Messineo was not afraid to play favorites, mentioning his preference for the osprey over the eagle, and the “ignored” double crested cormorant over the showier anhinga.

“Florida … for the Birds” is one in a series of five DVDs Messineo has written, photographed and narrated, utilizing the services of son in law Stan Cottie as director, producer and technical guru. After the presentation, he sold copies for $20, with half the proceeds going to the Historical Museum. The 50/50 split also applied to photographic prints sold.

Messineo’s other videos cover topics from beginning photography, “Creating Clarity Out of Chaos,” to “Special Moments,” an inspirational presentation featuring poetry and quotations, and “Back from Africa,” focusing on the Masai Mara game park in Kenya.

On Tuesday, April 17, he will present “The Exotic Everglades,” turning his lens on our big backyard, at the Marco library at 2 p.m. Len Messineo’s website, with many of his images and DVDs, is www.lensnaturephotos.com.

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