Feeding frenzy on St. Pete Beach

ff-2I go to St. Pete Beach for the Novelists Inc. conference, but I love the nature scene there, too. My husband and I walk on the shore every morning, hoping to spot dolphins.

This year, because of winds, tide, the warmth of the water, who knows, maybe there was a sale on plankton that weekend, we witnessed a feeding frenzy every day.

We could see it operating up the links of the food chain.

A mile away, gulls, terns, black skimmers, and pelicans could be seen flying over the very edge of the water.

Herons and egrets, great and small, stood at intervals waiting for room service.

that white water is caused by fish thrashing, jumping, and fleeing one another

that white water is caused by fish thrashing, jumping, and fleeing one another

As the birds approached, we saw that in one spot the water was frothing up as each tiny wave broke on the sand.

The smaller birds landed on the shore, walking along beside this frothy wave, and the pelicans hung out between thirty and fifty feet offshore, swimming along as fast as a person can purposefully walk.

And in the wave…fish!

Tiny silver fish an inch long churned the water by the millions right where water met sand.

Bigger silver fish maybe five inches long would skitter rapidly through the tiny pipe formed by the tiny wave, as if in pursuit—or flight.

Occasionally we’d see foot-long fish break the water three or four feet from the sand.

many itty bitty fish wound up beached on the sand

many itty bitty fish wound up beached on the sand

We decided that it must work like this: A bunch of the teeny fish came up to the shore where the water was warmest to eat whatever they eat.

Behind them were schools of bigger fish, herding the smaller fish toward shore until they threw themselves onto the sand and made the wavelets boil.

Behind the bigger fish, yet bigger fish, and who knows, something truly impressive out there under the smug, judicial pelicans, participating in the buffet.

Dolphins? Hammerheads? Rays?

We walked alongside and watched. We took pictures and then had to run to catch up. It was magical.

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