So much birding to talk about, so little time before I have to wake up and start birding again. Let’s get into it.

My trip this morning was to the Viera Wetlands, a place used to treat wastewater – indeed designed and built for that purpose – which is nevertheless quite scenic and birdy. It also has a road that goes right around the perimeter of the water, so it can be birded with little to no walking. Knowing it would be an easy trip, I just grabbed a couple Clif Bars, my binoculars, and my camera, and set out for the meeting point – at 5:20am.

At festival HQ, I grabbed a scrambled-egg bowl from the local yolk’l food truck… which I now see is not coming back tomorrow. Ugh. Guess I have a Clif Bar breakfast to look forward to. Anyway, when I stepped onto the bus at five minutes to six, I found it practically full. Turns out I was the last one to show up, and as I made my way to the empty seats at the back, row after row of smiling, silver-haired heads looked up to greet me. Yeah, I’d say the median age of that group was in the upper 60s. Well, who cares? It’s not like I’m here to meet girls. (For anyone who may be considering it, I would not recommend coming here to meet girls.)

Our trip was led by three super-knowledgeable, super-nice guys: Dan Click, of the Merritt Island Wildlife Association; Jeff Gordon, president of the American Birding Association; and Nate Swick, of both the ABA and 10,000 Birds. Nate, consummate pro that he is, has already blogged about the trip, including much better photos than you will find on Birding for Humans. However, if you are my close friend or relative (and you probably are), you are still obliged to read my post.

We arrived before first light, and it was mad cold, considering we were dressed for Florida Winter, not Real Winter. But it was a clear day, and the birds were plentiful. Aside from that, there’s not too much to say. Allow me to drop some photographic knowledge on you instead:
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Killdeer
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Double-crested Cormorant. (Background: another Double-crested Cormorant, and a Great Blue Heron on its nest)
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Great Blue Heron
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Bald Eagle
Basically, it was a gorgeous morning, and everyone seemed pleased. We even drew the attention of a local news crew! I guess they were there to cover the festival? In any case, Jeff stepped up and gave a strong interview.
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Jeff Gordon doesn't get interviewed. Interviews get Jeff Gordon'd.
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Birders watch.
Another pleasant bus ride put us back at HQ just before noon, and the rest of the day stretched out before me, completely free of any obligations or structure. It occurred to me what a rare and wonderful moment this is, where I have the maturity and means to come here, without the health- and parenting-related concerns that inevitably muck everything up later in life. Nice. But I didn’t dwell on it for long. Another fast-food lunch, a call to the Mrs., and a quick nap – then back out for more birding.

I went out to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, my Dad’s and my favorite birding spot when I was growing up. I’ve been there so many times over the years – as a middle-schooler, a high-schooler, a college student, a… well you know just a regular working dude… and I’ve seen more species of birds there than at any other place. I was excited to get back. And though it was late afternoon, the birding didn’t disappoint. I saw a bunch of cool stuff I hadn’t seen in a while – American Avocets, Reddish Egrets, hundreds of gorgeous Northern Pintails…
… but the highlight was my close personal encounter with a group of Florida Scrub-Jays. This species is prized by birders as a Florida specialty (though its close cousin, the Western Scrub-Jay, is common in much of the Western U.S., including my yard). But My Dad and I had a go-to spot for them – we would drive slowly down this one road, watching and listening, and usually one would pop up where we could see it. So I decided to spend the last bit of daylight doing just that. They made me sweat it out, but as I neared the end of the road, two of them appeared in the bushes nearby. 
And when I got out of the car to take some pics, three more showed up to investigate.
When I say investigate, I mean they were trying to figure out whether I was something from which food could be extracted. I’m pretty sure of that, because they all came super close to me – and at least one of them tried repeatedly to land on my head. Alas there are no photos of that, since it was too close to focus my camera on, and besides it’s really hard to take pictures when you’re ducking and shrieking. But it was awesome.
Sigh. I gotta wrap this up. I drove off into the sunset, stopping to check out the trade show at festival HQ – basically a gymnasium full of bird books, astoundingly expensive binoculars, and a vaguely unsettling display of live birds of prey, apparently trained to perform for crowds, but being mostly ignored by a group of people that would’ve ooh’d and aah’d extensively over them if they were flying free. Then, some prep for tomorrow’s trip. I wanted to tell you about that tonight, but it’ll have to wait. All writing and no sleep would make my morning a lot less awesome. And this is a birding festival. Mornings are for awesome.
 


Comments

09/28/2013 10:04am

I thoroughly enjoyed this blog and created a Weebly account too.

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