I've been avoiding it, but on Wednesday evening I went to Bradenton Beach to see the spectacle for myself. If you haven't heard, Florida is in the middle of a massive red tide. So I drove to the beach, and as expected, was greeted with the smell of fish washed up on the shore. Maybe because of the breeze, it was not as bad as I feared. After a few minutes, I relaxed and let it fade into the background.
I came primarily to take pictures of the sunset because red tide or not, when the atmospheric conditions are right it's still astounding to see. However, as I walked along the beach, something seemed out of place. I struggled to put my finger on it as I continued and then it hit me. It was too quiet; there were no birds. All of the gulls, pipers, and pelicans had either succumbed or escaped, and there was not a single one on the beach. The lack of avian sounds and activity left me with an eerie feeling. That was the moment it hit home.
I am heartbroken, of course. I rationalize to myself that we are moving through the worst it, but that we will make it to the other side. The conditions that allow the algae bloom will eventually cease, and the fish, birds and sea mammals will, in time, return. I'm glad I went, and now I know that I will go again because I think it's important to witness it first hand, not just from TV. People are avoiding the shore, and the beach is empty in more ways than one. As for myself, being there to hear its silence is in some way, essential.