Florida Space Coast 2013 – part 1

Anyone who keeps bird lists and wants to get the best bang for the buck has to go to several geographic locations at different seasons.  For Big Year folks, this means (in addition to chasing rarities) visits to what refer to as “The Big 5″.  These are the 5 states where you can pick up a huge number of regular species and also be in proximity to potential rarities showing up while you are there.  These states are Alaska, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida.  All of these states have unique specialty birds–birds that occur more commonly there than many other places (and a few are completely unique to those areas).  What’s it like to visit a birding festival in one of these locations?  Read on.  I will tell you about my trip to Brevard County, Florida for the an old and well-recognized festival, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.  The epicenter of the birding action here is the very birdy Merritt Island NWR near Titusville, FL.

I arrived in Florida late Sunday afternoon, 1/20/2013, with 3 hours of daylight to burn.  Spending that time at Merritt Island NWR seemed like a good plan.  And 70 species later I would say,  “Yes.  That was a good choice.”

Merritt Island NWR is a big wildlife refuge near Cape Canaveral where the space shuttle launches occurred.  Here are a few pics from the Black Point Wildlife Drive.

Northern Pintail male in alternate plumage - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

Northern Pintail male in alternate plumage – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

Loggerhead Shrike on fencepost - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

Loggerhead Shrike on fencepost – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

Wood Stork with water dripping off bill - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

Wood Stork with water dripping off bill – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

Reddish Egret - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

Reddish Egret – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

 

Reddish Egret in flight - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

Reddish Egret in flight – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

 

sunset modified with brush stokes - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-20

sunset modified with brush stokes – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo/art by Greg Miller

Monday was a chase day–a day to chase a few rare birds in Florida. Targets for the day included reports of La Sagra’s Flycatcher at Green Cay near Boynton Beach, FL; a Western Spindalis on Virginia Key (Miami area); and a Bananaquit on Key Biscayne (also Miami area).  The La Sagra’s was calling in the distance at Green Cay, but my ears were full and I couldn’t hear it.  All the other birders present heard it.  Sigh.  We dipped on the Western Spindalis (formerly Stripe-headed Tanager) and the Bananaquit, too.  The photo opportunities from this day were at Green Cay.  What a beautiful little oasis in the middle of an urban area.

 

Common Gallinule head shot straight on - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Common Gallinule head shot straight on – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Glossy Ibis changing from basic to alternate plumage - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Glossy Ibis changing from basic to alternate plumage – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Great Blue Heron with reflection - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Great Blue Heron with reflection – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

is this a very bright Roseate Skimmer - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Scarlet Skimmer – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

more normal looking Roseate Skimmer - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

more normal looking Roseate Skimmer – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

red-bellied & yellow-bellied cooters - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-20

red-bellied & yellow-bellied cooters – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

 

water droplets closeup - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

water droplets closeup – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Red-shouldered Hawk adult pale Florida race - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Red-shouldered Hawk adult pale Florida race – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Little Blue Heron head shot - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Little Blue Heron head shot – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Snowy Egret head shot with plumes - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Snowy Egret head shot with plumes – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Tricolored Heron head shot with feathering - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-20

Tricolored Heron head shot with feathering – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller

 

Tricolored Heron face shot - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Tricolored Heron face shot – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Sora feeding - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Sora feeding – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Limpkin standing on log - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Limpkin standing on log – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Limpkin scratching its face - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Limpkin scratching its face – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

 

Limpkin head shot - Green Cay - near Boynton Beach FL - 2013-01-21

Limpkin head shot – Green Cay – near Boynton Beach FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

Ok.  I lied.  This last photo is from Green Cay near Miami, FL.

Magnificent Frigatebird adult male in flight - Virginia Key FL - 2013-01-21

Magnificent Frigatebird adult male in flight – Virginia Key FL – 2013-01-21 photo by Greg Miller

The day before the festival began I made trips to Cape Canaveral National Seashore and back to Merritt Island NWR.

Florida Scrub-Jay - Cape Canaveral National Seashore - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

Florida Scrub-Jay – Cape Canaveral National Seashore – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

Lesser Scaup adult male - Cape Canaveral National Seashore - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

Lesser Scaup adult male – Cape Canaveral National Seashore – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

Roseate Spoonbill - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

Roseate Spoonbill – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

Black Skimmer head shot - Merrit Island NWR causeway - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

Black Skimmer head shot – Merrit Island NWR causeway – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

Hooded Merganser male - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

Hooded Merganser male – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

alligators - Merritt Island NWR - near Titusville FL - 2013-01-22

alligators – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-22 photo by Greg Miller

 

5 thoughts on “Florida Space Coast 2013 – part 1

    • Thanks Kent. After nearly 30,000 photos later (from about a year ago, I certainly would have hoped to improve at least a little). Of course, a good lens makes a big difference. I am really loving my Sigma 50-500mm with optical stabilization. It makes me look better than I really am.

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