Flying Lessons Postcard

A gift of the brightest red

We were traveling just after the holidays a few years ago when we stopped at St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Panhandle. The 68,000-acre preserve is one of the oldest in the country, created in 1931 for a stopover for migratory birds. But one rare bird that wasn’t supposed to be there showed up just in time to give us a post-holiday gift. We stopped to talk with the volunteers in the office before wandering the wetlands. Just as we were leaving, she said there was one more thing we should know that they generally kept to themselves to spare the bird from too many visitors. “There’s a Vermillion Flycatcher you can find at a secret spot,” she whispered, and then gave us directions, along with instructions to take only a brief look. Sure enough, moments after we arrived at a particular path, our present arrived, wrapped in the brightest red plumage we’d seen on any species. Its dark brown wings and tail set off the deep bright red that covered its front and head. The flycatcher went about its business, chasing down insects, and then stopped for a few moments on a nearby sign and looked us up and down. OK, it seemed to say, that’s enough. Off we went with a precious encounter we won’t ever forget.

Flying Lessons Postcards are short takes on birds of the season. Each week in December, we’re featuring a favorite photo of a bird with a connection to the holidays. 

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