Anna Maria Island is a nine-mile-long landmass on Florida’s gulf coast, just south of St. Petersburg, west of Bradenton, and is a place that won’t exist when the oceans have swallowed all known coastlines. It is a place of constant recovery, lashed by hurricanes that don’t swirl up the east coast, don’t die off in the Caribbean, but detour and then park in the Gulf of Mexico.

I was on Anna Maria for my annual birding expedition—the blogs were alight this fall with news of Blue Herons, so many overpopulating the island that there was no room in the trees. Nests were everywhere

in convertibles left open overnight

attic crawl spaces

range hoods in restaurants serving grouper sandwiches

and in the back of my rented golf cart, a vehicle modified to reach 45 mph on the island’s main thoroughfare.

I drove through the afternoon, stopping for iced tea, stopping for a burger, stopping when I thought I had lost one of the herons at my back, but always he returned with a stick or a twig in his beak, landing softly near his partner and handing off his find. The nest in the back of the cart grew bigger, more formed, and the birds were still there when I returned to the rental center just before sunset.

“How Simple” by Hop Along is off the band’s forthcoming record Bark Your Head Off, Dog, out April 6.

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