The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Where the action is!
2014 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. A field trip to St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park.
The 17th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival (SCBWF) in Titusville Florida, has grown to be the largest birding festival in the country. The festival is attended by people from all over the country as well as from several other countries. Once again this year, I was asked to photograph events at the festival. I always have fun photographing people taking part in festival activities. The SCBWF has something for everybody. Whether you are a beginning birder, someone who just loves getting outdoors, or a seasoned birder, you will find several festival activities to enjoy.
Looking to add that elusive bird to your life list? Sign up for one of the many field trips offered at the festival. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker and the Florida Scrub-Jay are two birds that many birders would like to add to their life list. A great place to see both of those birds is at the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park. If you want to take advantage of this field trip, you will need to wake up early! The bus boards at 4:30 am!
The first stop was the park visitor center to meet our guides and resident experts, Samantha McGee from the St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park (SSRPSP) and David Simpson of Birding with David Simpson. Samantha gave us an overview of the park and some information about the birds we would be seeing. The great thing about the SCBWF field trips is not only the very knowledgeable guides that take you right to the birds, but the festival makes special arrangements with the locations to give you VIP access. The SSRPSP doesn’t normally open until 8:00 am. We were there much earlier! Also, we were transported in State Park vehicles to locations in the park that you would otherwise need to see on foot. That saved us a several mile hike.
This field trip leaves so early in the morning, because the Red-cockaded Woodpeckers leave their nest cavities so early in the morning. Samantha is pointing out several tree cavities as we wait for the birds to emerge. It’s worth the wait, as the woodpeckers emerge, they perch on an adjacent tree and showoff for us.
Watching the woodpeckers chasing each other from tree to tree as the sun rises above the horizon. They put on quite a show for us.
Taking time out to photograph a nice Florida landscape.
David Simpson, in the plaid shirt,of Birding with David Simpson helping out with bird identification.
The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers (RCW) are a highly managed bird. Park biologists keep an eye on all of the RCW’s in the park. Here, Samantha McGee is explaining how they manage the RCW population. The RCW use live, long leaf pines to build their nest cavities. Most other woodpeckers will use any dead tree to make a nest cavity. This makes the RCW a very habitat specific bird. This is why preserving habitats like the SSRPSP is so important! Park biologists have been helping by making nest cavities for the RCWs. It can take over a year for a pair to create their own nest cavity, so they are very happy to move into the man made nest cavities. All of the long leaf pines with nest cavities are marked with a white band around the tree trunk. There are several young birds in the park that have nest cavities ready and waiting. They just need to find their mate, move in, and start their own families. Thanks to Samantha and her colleges, the RCWs here are doing well for now. It is a very fragile situation and could go one way or another at any time.
Peeking through the scrub oaks watching a family of Florida Scrub-Jays. The Red-cockaded Woodpeckers are not the only habitat specific bird that the SSRPSP manages. The Florida Scrub-Jay is another bird that needs a very specific habitat to survive. They will only survive in a scrub oak habitat. The scrub oaks need to be of a certain height and density. If the scrub is too short the birds will not move into the area. If the scrub grows too tall the birds will move out. The health of the scrub habitat is managed by fire. The scrub habitat is burned periodically to maintain the height and density. Scrub-Jays are interesting birds. They work together as a family group to protect each other from predators. The one predator they can’t protect each other from is the loss of their habitat.
Sometimes when you are out in the field birding, you never know what rare or unusual bird you’re going to encounter.
There is no better way to cap off a great day in the field than lunch at the Marsh Landing Restaurant. It was nice listening to everyone’s birding stories. The food was great too! Once you finally make a decision between all of the great things on the menu.
For the past few months I’ve been in somewhat of a creative slump. Sort of a photographer’s block. I didn’t feel creative enough to take photos. The photos I did take didn’t end up looking the way I wanted them to. When I take a photo I get a vision in my mind of how I want it to look. My vision and my camera somehow become one. Lately though, my vision and my camera have been disconnected.
Creativity is like a muscle. You need to exercise it or it will get weak. My creative muscle was getting weak. This is the time of year when we get some nice fog in the mornings. I like taking photos on those foggy mornings. There were a couple foggy mornings that snuck up on me and I missed them all together. There was one I was ready for; I woke up early, and it was nice and foggy. I decided to go across the river to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. Big mistake, there was no fog on that side of the river. I took a few photos, but nothing I was real happy with. My creativity and my camera were disconnected still.
I kept my eye on the weather for more fog. The other day there was a chance of fog. I woke up early and looked outside, I didn’t see any fog. I went back to bed, and when I woke again there was fog. I guess I checked too early and the fog hadn’t formed yet. It was too late to get to where I wanted to photograph; I was very discouraged. I expected the next day to be foggy too. I decided to get out early and take some photos, fog or no fog. I needed to exercise my muscle. There was some fog, but it was very spotty. I drove over to the wildlife refuge. The first thing I came across were some black skimmers. They were skimming over the mirror smooth water. The sun was still below the horizon, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. I took a few good images, and LOTS of bad ones. As the skimmers moved on I was treated to a beautiful sunrise. I moved back across the river to the marina. I found a few nice images on the way to the marina. Once at the marina I found another one of my favorite subjects: reflections.
All in all, I think I was able to give my creative muscle a decent workout. My creativity is feeling stronger and I hope that my creative slump is waning!
Fall not only brings cooler weather (below 90 in our case). It also brings the start of the Fall Art show season. Central Florida hosts many fine art shows. Art collectors and artists from all over the country visit the area to buy and sell all types of beautiful art.
Historic Downtown Melbourne Fl. is host to one such art show. The historic section of Melbourne is a 6 to 7 block walk back in time. The streets are filled with historic store fronts, eclectic shops, boutiques, and restaurants. This makes a great backdrop for the Fall Festival and Art Show.
The Melbourne Fall Festival is filled with art of all kinds. A short walk through the historic streets of Melbourne you will find all types of paintings, sculptures, jewelry, photography, and arts &crafts. There is fun for all ages, face painting, arts & craft making for the kids, shopping and beer for the adults. Music is also a big part of the festival. The main stage was filled with local artists featuring all kinds of music throughout the day.
Here are some of my photos that I took for Main Street Melbourne.
Click on an image to see it larger and to read the captions.
My wife Robbie and I recently had the opportunity to visit Space Shuttle Atlantis in her new home at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
In preparation of Atlantis’ arrival, the Visitor Complex underwent a facelift. From the new entrance, to the new building that houses Atlantis. At the entrance to the Atlantis exhibit there is a replica external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters that are huge! From Titusville looking across the Indian River at an actual Space Shuttle on the launch pad you really needed to strain your eyes to see the darn thing. The new replica tank and SRB’s can easily be seen from almost anyplace in Titusville. They make a very striking entrance to the new exhibit. After watching the construction and Atlantis moving from the Space Center to the Visitor Complex it was very interesting to see how it all came together. I think they did a fantastic job!
Once inside the exhibit visitors are treated to an entertaining, humorous, and informative short video about the history of rockets.
Visitors are then moved into an amazing theater. A video of Atlantis launching and working in space is projected onto the walls and ceiling of the theater. You can feel the vibration as Atlantis thunders into space. It’s really amazing to watch.
As the theater fades to a black star filled sky, a large door opens and you find yourself face to face with the real Atlantis.
As you walk out of the theater, Atlantis is looking you in the eye. She is very proud of the many accomplishments that were made in her 26 years of service.
(click on an image to see larger images)
The upper level of the exhibit is filled with information about Atlantis and the 33 missions that Atlantis flew. On one of her missions, Atlantis and her crew repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. Getting a good view of Atlantis from any angle imaginable is not the only thing to see. There is a shuttle cockpit mockup where you get to see what it was like to fly a shuttle. There are very cool interactive displays. In one of them you are looking at a video of an astronaut during a space walk. Then you become the astronaut. As you move your hand the astronaut moves his hand using a tool to make a repair.
Behind Atlantis there is a HUGE video screen with images of the Space Station and astronauts making space walks. You don’t need to use too much imagination to feel like you are in space with Atlantis.
Looking from the upper level down to the lower level, you get a good look at the belly of the beast. Also you may be wondering, how do I get down there? You have several options. One you could take the elevator, or…
You could take the eery red hallway! Or even better, you can do what we did, and take the way cool sliding board to the lower level! That was fun!
Before you head down the slide, you may want to take a tour of the model International Space Station. It’s like a habitrail for humans. You get a feeling of what it’s like to spend some time in the Space Station. There is a bit of a thrill as you encounter a clear tube 30ft or so above the floor. The girl in the photo was hesitant to cross the gap. I think a push from her friend got her moving through the tube.
Once you make it to the lower level, aside from seeing Atlantis flying over your head, there are many more things to see. I’m not sure I saw everything. There are more interactive simulators, where you can land an orbiter, aka shuttle, or use the robotic arm. They have the Airstream Astrovan on display that carried the astronauts to the launch pad. I’ve always thought the Astrovan was pretty cool. There are lots of things to see and do at the new Atlantis exhibit. We had a great time! Oh, and don’t worry since you need to exit through the gift shop, you will be able to pick up a memento, or two, of your visit with Atlantis. So grab your favorite Atlantis T-shirt and come see Atlantis in her new home!
I was in Merritt Island Fl. early one morning. My lens was treated to a beautiful sunrise over the Banana River. The Banana River is not a banana though, they just call it that because it’s sort of shaped like a banana. It’s not really a river either, it’s a saltwater lagoon. So it’s not a banana, and it’s not a river, but it’s a really pretty place for a sunrise.
I have been seeing several posts lately using iPhone photography. So I thought I would post a few iPhone photos of my own. Unfortunately, my father-in-law has been having a few health issues recently, so we had to spend some time at our local hospital. He is still having a few issues, but hopefully he is on a path to a swift recovery. Our local hospital is the Parrish Medical Center. If you find yourself needing to spend some time in the hospital, Parrish is not a bad place to be. For one, the people there are great. They are all very friendly and helpful. The other thing is the architecture is very well done. They managed to create a space that you actually want to spend time in. In fact, that was the plan. The idea was to heal the spirit as well as the body. Built in 2002, it was one of the first hospitals in the country to incorporate healing into the design. It works really well too. Every time I need to go there for a blood test or to visit a friend or family I don’t really feel like I’m in a hospital. They created a large atrium with skylights bringing in lots of natural light. Along with the calming sound of the water feature and tropical plants it gives you the feeling of being outdoors. I have always wanted to do some photography there. Normally places like this frown on photography, so I have never tried. Though I was just reading that it’s a popular place for wedding photos, who knew! So anyway, needing to stretch my legs from time to time I would take short walks. I could not help noticing the beautiful light from the skylights falling on the interior spaces. I can’t pass up great light, so I whipped out my trusty iPhone and started taking some photos. This was the perfect place to take advantage of my HDR app. It’s a pretty cool app, I use it a lot. It automatically takes two different exposures and combines them into one. It does a good job of bringing up the shadow areas and an OK job of dealing with the highlights. My iPhone capturing the light of Parrish: