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Watching nature fly from the Gulf side
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Lazy, sunny, warm October days at Cape San Blas are not what they used to be. No more swimming in the surf, floating on calm waters, not even walking on the beach.

For several years, I'm content to enjoy sea, sand and sun from a comfortable seat on the porch or deck.

Today as I rest my eyes from reading, I'm enjoying all types of flying things and contemplating.

There are always the beautiful seagulls, some all white, many gray, some with black-tipped wings. And pelicans, graceful in their straight rows or V-formations, but not nearly so attractive on close scrutiny.

Petite sandpipers are seldom flying, but they "skitter" so rapidly, it's like they are skimming the edge of the water.

This week our area is filled with butterflies. Monarchs are migrating, and the newly forming dunes, covered with dune daisies, lantana and sea oats, are alive with flashes of brilliant orange and black wings. They dip and dive, chase each other, and I suppose eventually move on with their continuing journey southward, although they are replaced so quickly that it seems there is a continuous hovering.

The monarchs are congenially interspersed with some pale yellow and occasionally dark-colored butterflies.

They are probably all feeding on the various flora which have been meticulously planted and nurtured as part of the beach renourishment project necessitated to halt erosion caused by several years of strong storm surges accompanying hurricanes. (Fortunately, we have so far been spared this year.)

Not so beautiful, but graceful nevertheless, are the dragonflies and "darters," sailing back and forth as they make us happy by eating insects from the lush growth below.

Less attractive are the "lovebugs," so-called because they mate as they fly and look slothfully heavy.

There are, of course, some not-so-welcome flying visitors, like gnats, mosquitoes, "no-see-ums" (so tiny they can come through screens), etc.

But it is a bit too breezy for those right now. And, worst of all, the dreaded "biting flies," from which there is no recourse once they descend, but to stay inside.

How much like people are these flying creatures, I thought as I watched the seagulls and pelicans fly low across the water, occasionally dipping down to try for a fish or settling near an obvious school of tiny "bait fish."

They and we spend the majority of our lives doing what is necessary to sustain ourselves, going where we can find the things we need and want. And we also find ways to enjoy living, just as it appears that the gulls and pelicans, butterflies and darters enjoy soaring and dipping, wheeling and gliding.

There are some of us, like seagulls and monarchs, who are attractive, even stunning; some like the pelicans who appear strong and commanding, but may not seem so appealing up close. And, yes, there are some who annoy, even bite, like gnats and pesky flies.

I won't try to draw analogies with all the flights I've been observing, but I'll venture to say that you could find a flitting butterfly or a useful dragonfly among your friends and neighbors.

We can also take a lesson from the gulls and enjoy some pleasant soaring even as we work at daily activities.

P.S. If this column had not been written exactly when it was, it would never have even been thought about. The following day brought torrential rains, followed by a night and day of cold wind and then days of tapering off to sunny, cool, breezy weather.

And today, Friday, the gulls and pelicans have resumed their search patterns and a scattering of small butterflies are emerging upward and, maybe, onward.

Helen Taylor's column appears periodically in the Dawson Community News.

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