Mark Hedden

Mark Hedden is a photographer, writer, and semi-professional birdwatcher. He has lived in Key West for more than 25 years and may no longer be employable in the real world. He is also executive director of the Florida Keys Audubon Society.

WILD THINGS: ASK THE BIRD GEEK II

What should the Florida state bird be? – Nan From The Block Oh, man, I have opinions on this. Currently Florida’s state bird is the northern mockingbird. And while it’s a damn fine species, nothing about it is particularly Floridian. Its range spreads across 38 of the lower 48 states....

WILD THINGS: IMPORTANT READER QUESTIONS ANSWERED

What are the best ways to attract hummingbirds in the Keys? — Ethel’s Friend There’s only ever been one hummingbird species recorded in the Keys – the ruby-throated hummingbird. They are the one species that breeds regularly east of the Mississippi, but they don’t breed here. They winter here. You...

WILD THINGS: THE ART OF BACKCOUNTRY LOAFING

You could see them from a couple miles away, a thin ribbon of white over a thin ribbon of beige over a thin ribbon of azure. The azure was the edge of the Atlantic. The beige was the low line of the sandbar. The white was a flock of...

WILD THINGS: SWALLOWING UNCOMFORTABLY

Swallows are perpetual motion machines, the original can’t stop/won’t stop birds. Occasionally they will rest briefly on a power line or a tree branch, but mostly, from breakfast until bedtime, it’s go go go. Paired with all that aerial vrooming is the fact that they hardly ever fly in...

WILD THINGS: PIRACY ON THE LOW SEAS

It seemed like a squabble between royal terns at first – two seemingly identical birds, white with orange grove orange bills, way high up, circling around, one chasing the other, then the other chasing the one. But it also seemed a little flirty, like an improvised dance, a little...

WILD THINGS: CAN’T QUIT THE GRASSQUIT

I was hanging around with Kevin Christman, trying and failing to pick a splinter out of my index finger. Finally I gave in and put on my reading glasses so I could actually see the damn thing, and managed to bite it between my two incisors and pull it...

WILD THINGS: HANGING WITH THE CUTWATERS

I didn’t go down to Mallory Square to see the skimmers. I went down to see the protest. A group of liveaboard boaters from Key West Harbor were understandably worried about what a new law recently passed in the state legislature would do to their way of life. It wasn’t a...

WILD THINGS: READING MAGAZINES ON THE PORCH

It was early and we were drinking coffee on the front porch. My wife had the good chair, the one where, if you tilted your head the right way, you could use the post to keep the sun out of your eyes after it came over the treetops. Which...

WILD THINGS: AVIAN LESSONS IN PERSUASION

I was pedaling past the sexton’s office at the cemetery when I heard the shriek. Like a just folded poker hand, I can’t really recall its exact details now. But it was high and piercing, and my first and only thought was: hawk. It came from somewhere beyond the tree...

WILD THINGS: KEEPING UP WITH THE PELICANS

I was on my way back from the mainland. Mostly I’d been wondering exactly how many empty cruisers the sheriff’s office had parked on the side of the road these days. There had always been that one in Layton, but they seemed to be everywhere now. It’s pretty interesting...

WILD THINGS: ADVENTURES WITH IMPROPERLY COLORED BIRDS

When I first pulled up I thought I was seeing a half-dozen young roseate spoonbills on the side road that parallels the runway at Marathon airport. It would have been kind of ironic, because I’d just spent a couple days up in the Everglades, where spoonbills are supposed to...

WILD THINGS: HIGH TIME TO GET TO THE SEA

You don’t think of Herman Melville as a funny guy, but he was. Darkly so. There’s an oft-quoted paragraph in “Moby Dick” where he talked about being in the grips of depression, a.k.a. the “damp, drizzly November” of the soul. He described himself as pausing in front of coffin...