Every morning I wake up to the sound of local traffic. When you live in Goodland the sounds of local traffic do not include the typical eight a.m. rush hour noises but rather the singing and chirping of our local bird population. We’re talking buzzards, mockingbirds, ospreys, morning doves, hawks, pelicans, woodpeckers, egrets, hummingbirds, owls and then some. With so many birds in one very small area it is not uncommon to have run-ins with our winged locals. These meetings are much more than the occasional white wash to one’s car.
The state bird of Florida is the Mockingbird. A small bird with the ability to imitate other bird calls, the mockingbird is a fixture in Goodland. This species is also known for protecting its young. My dog and I found that to be very true this past summer. Each day we would walk the same route to the post office until the attacks began. It was like any other day when out of the sky a small bird dive-bombed my dog hitting her on her backside. She never saw it coming and was left bewildered. For days the bird taunted us. It would perch along the power lines and follow us while chirping warnings at us and continued its attacks on my very confused pet. I pondered carrying a tennis racket with me to keep the bird at bay but reconsidered as I do consider myself an animal lover. The problem resolved itself once the mockingbird’s chicks grew older. This experience certainly taught me not to mess with those little birds and induces anxiety for me as their mating season is yet again approaching.
Ospreys are also known to be very attached to their young. These large birds, often thought to be eagles, mate for life and tend to use the same location for nesting each year. Their nests can be seen on the tops of Northern Pine Trees as well as on mile markers out in the water. Only a few weeks ago the locals of Goodland had an incident with an osprey family. On the corner of Harbor Place and Papaya Street stands a Northern Pine which hosts a family of osprey at the tip of its tree. A freak storm tore through Goodland knocking their nest to the ground. Two of Goodland’s locals found the nest and three baby birdsinside due to incessant chirping just outside the post office. Unfortunately, only one baby bird survived. It was taken to The Conservancy of Southwest Florida in Naples and was found to be in good condition. Only a few days later, it was placed back at the top of the same tree in a nest recreated by The Conservancy. With the help of Goodland locals it was reunited with its overjoyed parents who promptly began to take care of their baby.
It is always important to remember that these birds are wild. The Conservancy was able to save the baby osprey because they are trained in these matters. Attempting to handle wild birds on one’s own can cause serious injury. I learned this better than most during a run-in with a very hungry great egret. In my early years on Goodland I was at a local happy hour when an egret strolled right into the bar. It was so pretty and was begging for food the same way that my overweight dog does. I couldn’t resist. I took a peel n eat shrimp, peeled the shell and went to hand-feed a bird that stands over three feet tall. The bird grabbed for the shrimp and in the process it got my finger as well! Only later did I find out just how badly I really could have been hurt. These birds have long sharp beaks that could have easily taken my finger right off! Never again will I attempt to feed a wild bird or anything else for that matter.
While these stories are both humorous and endearing, they do show us examples of how humans and the wild interact. It is important to respect the wildlife in our area as well as to handle emergency situations through professional contacts. While it is certainly enjoyable to watch these different creatures in their local habitat, one must be cautious when thinking of moving to Goodland. If you have a really nice car that you don’t want to constantly be washing, or if the movie “The Birds” terrifies you then you might want to reconsider relocating to Goodland.
Natalie Strom has lived in Goodland for over two years and has worked in Goodland on and off for more than five years. She is a graduate of the University of Iowa and is also a former Buzzard Queen of Stan’s Idle Hour in Goodland.