Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Space Coasting

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Limpkin at Viera Wetlands near Cocoa, FL.
I feel only a little bit guilty for escaping the single-digit temperatures of southeastern Ohio this week for the relatively balmy temps along Florida's east coast. It's time once again for the annual Space Coast Birding & Nature Festival in Titusville, FL. This is one of the top events in the annual calendar of birding festivals. Its location is ideal for birding with great habitat and dynamic—even endangered—bird species nearby. Its timing in late January often coincides with the first days of winter despair for those of us who live in the rusty snow belt of the upper Midwest. And the folks who run the fest are just really nice and accommodating. Bird Watcher's Digest has been a sponsor of this birding festival since its inception.

Ruddy turnstone in winter plumage.
Oh, the reason it's called the Space Coast Birding & Nature Festival is because NASA's Cape Canaveral launch facility is located nearby. All those Apollo missions and Space Shuttle launches started from right here.

Florida scrub-jay.
 Two of my favorite birding locations during the festival are Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Both locations are a short drive from the community college auditorium and campus where the festival has its base. And both places offer amazing opportunities for birding, bird photography, and for appreciating the incredible natural diversity of this part of The Sunshine State. Brevard County certainly has its heavily developed areas but it also has a significant amount of protected natural habitat—and wherever this habitat occurs, it's as birdy as heck.

Least bittern photographed at Viera Wetlands.

 The last time I made the scene at Space Coast, I was accompanied by daughter Phoebe (then in 8th grade) and we spent several days visiting schools to take classrooms of her fellow 8th graders out birding. This was super fun!

 Phoebe also helped me at the book signings for The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America which she and her classmates at Salem Liberty Elementary helped me conceptualize and write. That's my friend and editor Lisa White from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the photo above. She was probably coaching me on how to spell my name properly during the book signing... B-I-L-L...

 On two separate afternoons, Phoebe and I escaped to the beach at Canaveral National Seashore. She was longing to see the ocean. It was cold, but we still took off our shoes and socks and rolled up our pants legs and raced into the surf.

Phoebe and me on the beach.

In fact I think it's safe to see that seeing that Phoebe on the beach just as happy and free as she could be was my favorite bird sighting of the entire week!

Do yourself a favor and visit The Space Coast Birding & Nature Festival's website and then make plans for your own late-January escape to Florida's Atlantic coast.


On January 28, 2013 at 12:34 PM Tim Ward said...

Sounds like one hell of an event Bill ..... just added to my list of things to do before I die!!

Love the pecker pics on feeders after your snowstorm ny the way.

hapy birding mate

tim@Timbobaggins Abroad

On January 31, 2013 at 10:55 AM Michael Sm said...
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