Monday, January 28, 2008

Space Coast Moment

Monday, January 28, 2008
Reddish egret on Black Point Wildlife Drive in Merritt Island NWR.

I am just back in the past few hours from Titusville, Florida, where I was attending the Space Coast Birding & Nature Festival. Florida in winter. . . man i could almost see buying some Bermuda shorts, a floppy hat, a Members Only windbreaker, and some golf clubs and hanging it up down there in the Sunshine State. Or maybe not just yet.

The Space Coast of Florida (the area around Cape Canaveral, epicenter of the NASA space program) could use as its marketing phrase: "It's Birdy as Heck Here!" There are huge flocks of American robins already preparing to move north. The sky is peppered with swooping tree swallows. Lines of ibises, cormorants, pelicans, spoonbills, and skeins of ducks look like stitching across the sky. Every bit of water hosts a wood stork, white ibis, coot, or gallinule. Bald eagles and osprey are so common as to elicit a yawn from the local birders. Yellow-rumped warblers tchup from every shrub and tree, joined by the occasional palm warbler.

Among the birds I encountered in Florida are several species I get to see just once or twice a year. Perhaps the most interesting such water bird is the reddish egret. It has an unusual hunting strategy—it walks along slowly in shallow water until it spies a school of fish. Then it chases the fish, trying to catch them by stabbing its bill into the shallow water. As it runs it looks something like a drunken sailor, legs and wings reaching out in all directions.

The reddish egret's color scheme is subtle but evocative—classic colors blended so well. I love the pink bill with a black tip. I got these few pictures of reddish egrets while in FL.

More about FL soonish. Right now, like an astronaut might experience coming back to Earth, I am in the midst of re-entry into my normal routine.


On January 29, 2008 at 11:43 AM Mary said...

The mental picture I had of the egret flouncing around me made smile. Looking forward to more from sunny Florida.

On January 29, 2008 at 6:53 PM crazyforcinema said...

Funny, every time I see this festival mentioned, I think "Space Ghost, Coast to Coast!" I visited Kennedy Space Center before becoming a birder and was still impressed with all of the wildlife and birds I saw there. I'm looking forward to more of your reports!

On January 29, 2008 at 9:06 PM KatDoc said...

Bill, I was there, too! Not at the Space Coast Birding Festival, but very close to you. I spent the last 10 days in central Fla: Orlando, Oviedo, DeLand. I took a pontoon ride on the Banana River, an airboat ride on the St. John's River, and birded Lake Woodruff NWR. I came back with a trip list of 64 species, including 11 Life Birds. Unfortunately, Reddish Egret was not one of them.

I got my Life Bittern at Lake Woodruff (my blog entry for Jan. 28) and right now I am in the middle of preparing my anhinga post. Aren't they weird birds? Central Florida has a whole lot more interesting things to see and do than just visiting the Mouse.

Looking forward to more about your trip, although I'm sure your photos will be much better than mine.


On January 30, 2008 at 10:34 PM Anonymous said...

Did you by chance happen to give directions to the festival Saturday morning while standing in the vicinity of a black chinned hummingbird?
I was dying to ask if you were Chet B's dad-but totally chickened out :)

On January 31, 2008 at 10:18 AM Bill of the Birds said...

Thanks Mary!

Crazy: We ALL call it Space Ghost. Definitely worth a visit during the festival.

Kat: Sorry our paths did not cross.

Anon: Yep, that was me. Nice black-chinned, huh?

On January 31, 2008 at 11:53 AM dguzman said...

I'm reading RTP's Wild America right now, and last night I read the part where he sees reddish egrets, and I remembered your photos. It really made me feel like I knew exactly what RTP and Fisher saw that day, decades ago. Same goes for your wood stork post! Thanks!