Friday, January 23, 2009

Space Coast: Friday

My flight landed in Orlando about 6 a.m., so after a rather leisurely breakfast and retrieval of a rental car, I reached Titusville -- site of the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival. Off Hwy. 1, the hotel lobby yielded Panamanian colleague Carlos Bethancourt as well as two WildBird contributors, Kevin Karlson and Jeff Bouton. Always good to see far-flung friendly faces all together.

After a nap, I ventured to Brevard Community College and investigated the vendors in the gymnasium. That's where I met Cracker, a Crested Caracara, at the booth for Audubon Center for Birds of Prey. The education bird apparently was born without bones in its left wing.

These raptors always have intrigued me. It might be the delightful contrast between the orange bare skin and the gray-blue beak. It might be the shape and size of that hooked beak. It might be its status in the falcon family yet its unfalconlike behavior; do you see any resemblance to a Peregrine?

Those dark feathers make a great mullet, no? Eventually, the silent raptor graced us with a few chirps -- which sounded like quickly striking typewriter keys. Birdchick might post a video clip of the caracara's sound.

Then Birdchick and I visited a local birder's home with the hope of seeing Painted Buntings. The generous fellow allowed us into his home with views of his seed feeders. The bright, male and female finches graced us with long looks of their beautiful plumage. Birdchick obtained photos and video of her former nemesis bird.

The long day ended with Clay Taylor and Fritz of Swarovski Optik. The powder-sugared corn fritters proved to be my downfall. Between that admission and this photo, you might know where we enjoyed a filling meal.

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