Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Space Coast: Sunday

My colleague, new to WildBird and birding, sounded enthusiastic about dipping his toes into it, so he and I joined Clay Taylor of Swarovski Optik at Viera Wetlands -- officially known as Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera -- on Sunday morning. When we arrived, Clay provided good looks at two perched Bald Eagles. What better way to begin a sunny, warm day?!

Slowly driving around the manmade wetlands -- attached to a wastewater treatment plant in Melbourne -- we saw a plethora of species: White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, American Coots, Double-crested Cormorants, Blue-winged Teal, Common Moorhens, Tricolored Herons, Great Blue Herons, Pied-billed Grebes. Oh, the list goes on and on.

The highlights for me included this rather nonchalant creature foraging out in the open (do you recognize it?)

and the Crested Caracara sporting colored leg bands and a radio transmitter that perched in a couple spots within our view.

Another highlight was hearing my colleague point out two wrassling birds -- Red-bellied Woodpeckers -- in the trees next to the auto route. I think the birding bug might've bitten 'im.

Then we joined the Sunday social and keynote at Fox Lake Park, where festival attendees ate lunch while sharing the highlights of their experiences. The incredible weather provided a fitting touch to the end of the festival.

After Chris Wood and Jessie Barry of Cornell Lab of Ornithology concluded the photo quiz, I briefly introduced the keynote speaker, Pete Dunne. Pete's talk, "Twenty-five Things that Changed Birding," stemmed from an article he wrote for WildBird in 2006. That's when WildBird celebrated its 20th anniversary, and I asked Pete to write about 20 milestones in the last 20 years.

Sunday's talk naturally deviated a bit from the article and included time for attendees to suggest other catalysts. I enjoyed the back-and-forth between Pete and everyone else.

That night, I got to share dinner with various colleagues, including one of my favorite birders, Austin Bouton (yep, from the "Adventures with Austin" column in WildBird). Have you tried the corn fritters with cinnamon butter? Heaven!

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