A huge dust cloud from the Sahara Desert, floated over Florida’s east coast. I thought this may have an unusual effect on the sunrise. I woke up early one morning to find out. One of my favorite times of the day to photograph is blue hour. I got going extra early so I wouldn’t miss it. Blue hour turned out to be nice and blue. I’m not sure what I was expecting from the Sahara sunrise. It turned out to be a bit dull and lifeless. You can definitely see the haze from the Sahara dust. The sun was a few degrees above the horizon before it was visible. It was definitely not a typical Florida sunrise.
Florida’s Space Coast is launching humans into space again! After a scrub due to bad weather, SpaceX launched two astronauts into space. Demo 2 is a manned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Demo 1 was an unmanned test flight of the SpaceX Dragon Crew Capsule. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley successfully docked with the International Space Station 18hrs later. They will spend several months working on the space station. After finishing their duties, they will board the Dragon and test the re-entry and splashdown capabilities of the Dragon Crew Capsule.
My main objective was to document the spectators that came to see this historic launch. I visited several of Titusville’s launch viewing hot spots. It’s very interesting to see how people come prepared to watch a launch. Most of them had been here for hours. A lot of them had tables and chairs and a pick-nick lunch. The big thing today was umbrellas. There were big ones and small ones. Umbrellas of every color of the rainbow. We were having small light showers, with bright sunshine in between. The umbrellas were keeping everyone in the shade and dry.
Photographing spectators is much different than photographing a launch. So I was not equipped to get awesome photos of the launch. I did take a video of the launch. You can hear the roar of the crowd cheering as the rocket lifted into the sky. Unfortunately I can’t post it here.
I was liking the texture of these wilting sunflowers. Naturally I had to photograph them.
Space X did an interesting launch today. They were testing their Crew Capsule Abort System. The last step towards an actual manned flight. Basically they launched a rocket, then blew it up. They wanted to make sure the crew capsule would separate and splashdown safely. My favorite place to watch a rocket launch is from the A. Max Brewer Bridge in Titusville, Fl. I got there early for the 8:00am launch to photograph the sunrise. That worked out well. The launch was pushed back to 10:30 due to rough seas in the splashdown zone. Sometimes good things come to those who wait. At that time of the day, from that location, the light is horrible for photographing launches. So I did not plan on photographing the launch. I really wanted to watch this one anyway. The rocket launched at 10:30. I had a great view of the rocket until it went behind some clouds. I thought that was the last time I would see the rocket. Luckily there was a hole in the clouds. Just as the rocket went into the hole, it blew up! It’s not every day that you get to see a rocket blow up on purpose. Very cool launch! After the launch there was a car show at Sand Point Park. So I photographed some of the cars. It was a full morning of photography.
I had a blast last Saturday taking part in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk. This year there were 868 walks in locations all over the world. There were 17,768 photographers taking photos all over the world on the same day. The walk I participated in was lead by my friend and fellow photographer Chris Wiley. We had 13 photographers in our walk. We started our sunset walk in Sand Point Park in Titusville Fl. We split the group in half, Chris took a group to photograph the sunset overlooking the marina. I took a group to photograph the sunset from the top of the A. Max Brewer Bridge. The Max is one of my favorite spots to photograph. After sunset we did a bit of night photography around the bridge. One of the best things about photographing the Max, is the Pier 220 outdoor restaurant and bar. They had a great live band and the place was hopping. So no better way to cap off a day of photography and meeting some new photographers, than to have a bite to eat and some ice cold beers at the Pier 220. I had fun meeting new people and taking some photos. I’m sure there is a walk in your town. Next year you should take a walk.
Last night SpaceX launched a Falcon Heavy rocket from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A normal Falcon 9 rocket has, 9 powerful Merlin rocket engines. A Falcon Heavy is three Falcon 9 rockets strapped together! SpaceX has been continually tweaking it’s Merlin engines. This Falcon Heavy is the most powerful rocket flying today. Boy was it powerful! This rocket was Space Shuttle loud. You could hear the rumble building as it got closer and closer. The sound started to reverberate off of the buildings, then the sound waves hit, you could hear and feel the rumble! It was awesome! The reason for all of that power, the Falcon Heavy was carrying 24 assorted satellites into space. Advances in technology have made it possible to build smaller satellites. This allows rockets to carry multiple satellites into space on the same rocket. Not only is this more profitable for companies like SpaceX. It should also be less expensive for satellite users. Night launches are always beautiful, and this one was no exception. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this launch was at 2:30 AM! It was worth getting up early to see it though. A very strange phenomenon happened during the launch. Looking through the binoculars, as the two Falcon 9 boosters strapped to the side, separated, the glowing engines and vapor, created an image that looked very much like Voldemort’s dark mark in the sky!
SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 Starlink satellites. Although the satellites were small, it was the heaviest load a Falcon 9 has lifted into space. The satellites are the first of up to 12,000 satellites that will make up a blanket of satellites that will provide a space based internet connection. Technological advancement or space pollution? Astronomers are already complaining, satellites are impeding viewing of the stars. Only time will tell.
The launch took place at 10:30pm. Night launches are awesome to watch. They make a really cool photographic subject. But also watching a launch at night is really beautiful. The flames from the rocket engines make all sorts of interesting shapes and colors. On a clear night with a pair of binoculars, you can follow the rocket all the way into space.
Today was a beautiful day to watch a rocket launch! This was no ordinary launch. Today SpaceX performed a test launch of the new Falcon Heavy rocket. The SpaceX FH is capable of launching some very heavy things into space. So what heavy thing did the FH lift into space on its maiden voyage? If you’re Elon Musk, you launch your Tesla Roadster into orbit around Mars. Complete with a dummy astronaut (dummy so he says, has anyone seen Elon?) hanging his arm out of the window, blasting David Bowie’s Starman on the stereo.
Rocket watchers from far and wide gathered early to watch this historic launch. I don’t think we got quite to Space Shuttle crowd sizes, but I think it was close. Maybe we should get 45 to review the crowd photos. There were some very relaxed and prepared people in Sandpoint Park. I wanted to get a photo of the huge crowd at Space View Park but there were no parking spaces close by. The Max B Bridge was jam packed. This is my favorite launch viewing site. I like to call it “Titusville’s launch viewing platform.” We had some time to kill before the launch. Due to high winds, the launch was pushed back almost to the end of its 2 ½ hours launch window. After a long wait, the FH ignited its 27 Merlin engines and lifted off of Apollo/Shuttle now SpaceX Falcon Heavy Launch Complex 39A. It was an amazing launch! The 27 Merlin’s really rumbled!
The FH is basically 3 Falcon 9 boosters strapped together. The plan was, to bring all three boosters back to earth, to be reused on another flight. Two of the three boosters had previously flown on F9 missions. The two outside boosters were to land back at KSC. The third booster was going to land on a barge in the Atlantic. It was amazing to see the two boosters bound for return to KSC simultaneously igniting to slow their decent. They ignited a second time and gently landed on target. Once again we heard the rumble of the rocket boosters landing, preceded by sonic booms. The third booster didn’t fare so well. Only one of three engines reignited to slow its decent and it was lost. All in all, a fantastic sight to see and hear. There is nothing like watching a live rocket launch!
Launching a Falcon Heavy, $90 million! Watching live video of a Tesla Roadster with Starman drop top orbiting the earth, PRICELESS!
It’s the beginning of October, time for the annual Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. Each year, photographers all over the world gather on the same day to explore, photograph, share photos with one another, make new friends, and be a part of a great cause.
I once again joined a walk in Historic Downtown Titusville FL. Chris Wiley a local fine art photographer was our walk leader. Our group of walkers came from allover Florida. We had a great time walking around Titusville looking for things to photograph.
We took a similar route as last year, so I was trying to find different things to photograph. I did photograph some of the same things, but I photographed them differently. I had lots of fun and I think I may have even gotten a good image!
It was once again time for Scott Kelby’s World Wide Photo Walk. Each year, photographers around the world gather on the same day to explore, photograph, share photos with one another, make new friends, and be a part of a great cause. The Worldwide Photo Walk supports The Springs Of Hope Kenya Orphanage, an organization that feeds, houses, educates, and empowers young orphans so that they can grow up to not just survive but succeed. This year there were 24,336 walkers, walking in 1068 locations around the world.
I participated in a walk in Historic Downtown Tituville, Fl. Our walk was lead by Chris Wiley a local fine art photographer. We started our walk in the historic part of Titusville. There are many old turn-of-the-century buildings to photograph. We continued on past the monuments dedicated to space travel. (Titusville is located in close proximity to the Kennedy Space Center.) We ended our walk at the fishing pier under the Max Brewer bridge on the Indian River. Cloud cover thwarted our hopes of a nice sunset. There was, however, a sliver of color in the sky.
I was concentrating mostly on getting some nice architectural abstracts. I like to photograph old crusty, rusty things – something that Titusville has a lot of. It’s always great to get together with other photographers. We had lots of fun! I think I came out with a few good photos to boot. I need to pick one of these photos to enter in the World Wide Photo Walk competition. So it would be great if you could let me know which one you would pick?
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I was looking at some examples of photographs that were taken at night, using the full moon as the light source. This looked like something that I needed to try. So after many moons of bad weather and bad timing, I finally got a chance to try this technique. You don’t need to have a totally full moon, it can be a few days before or after. You need to check a moon phase chart to see when moon rise will be. Hopefully it will be at a decent hour and not after midnight or later. This particular moon rise was at a good time, right about sunset. Using the moonlight is a lot like using the sunlight. If it is low in the sky, you will get some nice shadows. If it is high in the sky, you will get a more even light, but it’s not as harsh as photographing at noon.
Coincidentally, there was an 11pm rocket launch set for the March full moon. This is great! I can photograph the launch and also try out this moonlight photography thing.
The rocket launch was beautiful! Night launches always are beautiful. This was an Atlas V rocket taking supplies to the International Space Station. The full moon was a big help illuminating the foreground of this image. I like how you can see everyone on the dock with a lit up cellphone. You can see a few stars, but the light from the moon dims all but the brightest.
I had a bit of time to kill before the launch, so I took this photo of the bridge. After the launch, I crossed the bridge to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. This is where I took my midnight landscapes. By this time, the moon was getting pretty high in the sky. It was a very clear night just a few sparse clouds in the distant horizon. A few more clouds would make a very interesting sky, but you take what you get. After you find a nice place to photograph (you will need to scout the area ahead of time) take your time setting up. Your eyes need to adjust to the moonlight. Once they do, you will be amazed at how bright it really is. I was able to work with the camera and walk around without any additional light. Using a flashlight would ruin your night vision and actually make it harder to see. Just be careful that you don’t trip over any alligators.
I was experimenting quite a bit with ISO settings. I settled on ISO 1250 for these images. I will need to do a bit more experimenting to give a solid recommendation. I used f8 and a 6 second shutter speed. I was underexposing a bit. This being my first attempt I did not want to risk overexposing. I think I could have increased the exposure by one stop and still been OK. I had to work the shadows a bit in post. I was able to get more stars in the wider angle image. It looks more like a night photo, the tighter image looks more like it was taken at dusk. The glow on the horizon is not from sunset; it’s the glow of the Titusville city lights. Again the moonlight is overpowering a lot of the stars. If you want a lot of stars you need to photograph on the new moon. You will get the stars, but you will lose the color in the sky and detail in the foreground. You need to keep shutter speed under about 10 seconds to keep the stars from elongating. There is a huge chart to figure this out depending on camera and lens combo, look for the 500 rule.
These photos were taken at midnight, not midday. It’s amazing the colors you can see at night. It’s very eerie being in the marsh at night. The only sounds you hear are the sounds of nature. Wondering what that was that just made a splash in the water? This only adds to the experience.
I came upon this group of sleeping wood storks and spoonbills. I was very careful not to wake them. Every once in a while I could hear one of them ruffling its feathers, but they never moved.
Completing the loop through the salt marsh I couldn’t resist taking another photo of the bridge before heading home. I will need to try this technique a few more times and do some fine tuning. I had a great time photographing my midnight landscapes.
The organizers of the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival expanded the photography offerings for the 2016 festival. One of the photographers that joined the festival this year was Mike Matthews. (click here to see Mikes web site.) Mike conducted an amazing macro workshop with an interesting cast of characters.
Mike brought with him 10 to 15 species of exotic reptiles and amphibians like this very cool three horned chameleon.
He not only brought along some very cool subjects to photograph, he also brought the sets to photograph them in. There was a whole room full of small props and backdrops. Mike would expertly place one of the reptiles in the set then you instantly have a great photograph. Mike enjoys teaching photographers the tricks of the trade. He was very helpful with camera exposure settings as well as lens and flash selections. A well placed drop of water on a lizard’s mouth would create a fantastic image as the lizard licked the drop with its tongue. This was a great workshop! Not only were you able to learn all about the wonderful world of macro photography, but you came away with some world class images. Another one of the many reasons why you need to get your butt to the 2017 SCBWF!
I want to thank Mike for allowing me to follow him around and photograph his workshop. He helped me get some good photos as well as helping his workshop attendees get good photos. I only wish I would have had more time to see some of his other cute little friends.
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Another amazing Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival field trip: The Little-Big Econ State Forest. I was anxious to photograph this field trip; I have not been to this area before. I know Little-Big sounds a bit contradicting, but this is where the Little Econlockhatchee and the Big Econlockhatchee rivers come together, hence Little-Big Econ.
The field trip was led by biologist Lorne Malo from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, wildlife biologist Selena Kiser, Angel and Mariel Abreu with Nature is Awesome Tours. This was my first trip with Loren, he knows this area and its history very well. I have been on other trips with Selena, Angel and Mariel, they are all excellent birders! This is another reason why you need to attend the SCBWF. You could visit this area on your own no problem, but you would not have four expert birders with you. They know the area, they know the birds, they are great at sharing their knowledge with you. SCBWF field trips are a wonderful learning experience. I learn something new on every trip. For instance, on this trip I learned about mistletoe. In Florida not many trees lose their leaves. The ones that do sometimes have several balls of green leaves among their bare branches. I always figured they were some sort of parasitic plant. I learned from Lorne that it is mistletoe and that cedar waxwings like to eat the mistletoe berries.
The Little-Big Econ was beautiful. It was almost like walking through a prehistoric jungle. The mist was rising off of the river. The eerie call of the pileated woodpecker. I was expecting to see a dinosaur at any moment. There were no dinosaurs, but Lorne expertly lead us through the many trails to where we were able to get a good view of an eagles nest. There was an eagle in the nest to boot! We could not see into the nest but the eagle seemed to be tending eggs or maybe very young eaglets. The female eagles are very noticeably larger than the males. This is quite evident when you see them together. This was a large eagle, my guess is that it was the female. I travel light and didn’t have enough lens to get a decent photo of the eagle. Besides the eagle, we saw many types of birds on this trip. The Little-Big Econ is a great place to go birding. Fun was had by all.
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The 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival got off to a beautiful start. I enjoy taking photos for the SCBWF each year. On the first day of the festival there were several field trips planned at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge. My plan was to meet up with a few of the field trips and photograph them. The sunrise was stacking up to be a good one, so I found a good spot to photograph it. This particular area is a berm road with water on both sides. I was facing the sunrise; to my back there was a row of mangroves and the other body of water. Just on the other side of the mangroves there was a huge flock of American coots, but I didn’t know that at the time. Shortly after the sun rose above the horizon something spooked the coots. Possibly an eagle looking for a coot breakfast. The huge flock of coots made a frantic dash for the sunrise side of the berm road. They were crashing through the mangroves and stumbling onto the road. Several of them flew into my car! (no one was hurt.) The water dripping off of them as they flew over me made it feel like it was raining. It was quite the sight, coots everywhere with the beautiful sunrise for a backdrop.
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After the coot fly-in I went in search of the field trips. I met up with Shiv Verma on one of his daily photo walks. Shiv’s photo walks are sponsored by Panasonic. This is cool because Panasonic provides Shiv with lots of new equipment. As part of the photo walk, you not only were able to get some expert photography advice from Shiv, you could also take the new Panasonic equipment for a spin. Grab the new Lumix mirrorless camera and plop it on a new 4800mm scope, wow! One of the many perks of attending the SCBWF. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to play with the toys.
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Next, I met up with Kevin Karlson on his Birding by Impression field trip. He has recently co-authored a book of the same name. As well as writing books, Kevin is an excellent photographer and also did photography classes and workshops at the festival. I have gotten to know Kevin over the years and his field trips are always among the best at the festival. Birding by impression is a technique of bird identification that he has been perfecting over the years. By observing the birds size and shape, as well as the behavior of the bird, you are able to ID the bird when traditional field marks are not clearly seen. It is an interesting concept and Kevin is fantastic at explaining it. The 2016 SCBWF was off to a great start.
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I recently conducted a night time photography workshop at the 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I did three workshops on three different nights. On the first night we were treated to a spectacular sunset! On the second night, the sunset was not as spectacular, but we got some spectacular night photos of the Max Brewer Memorial Bridge over the Indian River Lagoon. The third night was the coldest windiest night ever! The waves on the river were crashing over the seawalls. We also, despite the weather, got some great night time bridge photos. I want to thank all of my participants for coming out and braving the weather with me. It was great fun for me, I hope you all had fun as well.
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You have probably heard of the golden hour. It’s the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The light has a warm gold cast to it. It’s one of my favorite times of the day, and not just for photographing. I just really like that time of day. The time just before sunrise and just after sunset is known as the blue hour. The sky turns a beautiful blue color. A lot of photographers will pack up after the sunsets and disappears below the horizon. If you have a little patience and hang around for a while, your images will have an amazing blue sky. You need to plan ahead, find a good location and work fast. Speaking of time, you don’t have much. Despite the name, the effect will last as little as 10min. and as much as 40min. Even then, it’s still not time to pack up your gear. There are still some great images to capture. This is what we will be discussing at my night time photography workshop at the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. I hope to see you there!
I think this grackle has been hanging out with his friend the osprey way too much.
If you want to see birds like this doing the things birds do, come to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.
I have been intrigued by this old Hotpoint sign since I moved to Titusville. Originally occupied by an appliance store, this building sat vacant for quite some time. Amazingly this very cool sign survived. Recently a clothing boutique moved in. I was very happy when they restored the sign and adapted it to their needs, rather than replacing it. I really like this old sign and I’m glad it’s still here.
I will be doing a photography field workshop at the 2016 Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival on night time photography. We will be learning how to make photographs like this one. This is an amazing festival. There is something for everyone, not only birders and photographers. I hope to see you there!
During this years Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival I will be leading a photography field workshop. We will be photographing the A. Max Brewer bridge at night. I will be doing three workshops, Jan 21, Jan 22 and Jan 23. This is one of the many locations on and around the bridge we will be photographing. I hope to see you there!
Here are some of the highlights from the 18th annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.
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Birders from all over the United States and several other countries gathered in Titusville, Florida for the SCBWF the last week in January. Although January is typically Florida’s coldest month, and it was one of our coldest weeks. I’m sure visitors from the northeast, who were in the middle of a deep freeze, were happy to be here. Birders both young and old had a great time and saw lots of birds. The youngest birders rivaled even the guides. They didn’t miss a bird and were able to name every one!
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The early bird catches the worm! Birders tend to take that phrase pretty seriously. No worries though, it’s my favorite time of the day!
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Back at the exhibit hall you can do some shopping. There is everything from great arts and crafts to that new kayak you have always wanted. Pick out a new pair of binoculars, or plan your next birding trip to some exotic place. Visit the art show and pick out your favorite piece of art. Don’t forget to look at the birding checklist board to see who is seeing what birds where.
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The entertainment is fantastic! After a long day of birding in the field, save some energy to enjoy one of the evening keynote speakers. You will be glad that you did!
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Take a class to learn how to be a better birder. Then go out in the field with the best birders in the country, and put what you have learned to use. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. All of the field trip leaders are happy to answer any question you may have. No matter how trivial you may think it is, there is probably another person thinking the same thing, and will be happy you asked the question. These people love to share information, and are happy to help you out. Take advantage of it!
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Titusville has a large variety of birds. One of the reasons this area is a great place to go birding is the diversity in habitats. There are several types of habitats in very close proximity. This makes it very easy to see many different birds in a short period of time.
If you hang out here too long, don’t be surprised if you start acting like a bird!
A great time was had by all! If you have never been to the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, I hope you will plan on being here next year! If you have been to the festival, I hope to see you again next year!
After the launch scrubbed the previous day, the crowd gathers again for a second attempt for an Orion test flight. The weather is a bit iffy today, there are quite a few clouds. We have the same 7:05 – 9:44am launch window, so there is plenty of time for the weather to clear up. You know how Florida weather is, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minuets and it will change! Just before sunrise the clouds did thin and we were treated to another great sunrise. The countdown is winding down and all systems are go! There are no boats, no high winds, and no frozen valves. Yeah! There is a glow on the horizon as the engines on the Delta IV Heavy ignite. The Delta carrying Orion slowly rises into the sky. We get a good look at Orion before it disappears into the clouds. Orion performed well on its 4 hour test flight. Orion orbited the earth twice before splashing down in the pacific ocean.
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It’s a beautiful morning for the test flight of Orion, NASA’s new space vehicle. Orion is one of the first steps on the road back to manned space flight for the United States. It’s no wonder that this launch draws a large crowd. It almost looked like a shuttle launch. People came from all over the United States and a few other counties too. The launch was set for 7:05am, the launch window is open until 9:44am. I heard that some people had been there since 3:00am! I slipped in about 6:30am, one of the perks of living close by. Orion is hitching a ride on a Delta IV heavy, the biggest rocket we fly these days. It’s basically 3 Delta rockets strapped together. Orion will have its own new rocket soon. The weather was great! The sunrise was beautiful, everyone is looking forward to a great launch. Everything is go for launch, but just before 7:00am the launch is put on hold. A boat has wandered into the no-boat zone near the launch pad. It takes authorities quite a while to get the boat clear of the launch zone. No worries though, there is a rather long launch window for this launch. The boat is cleared away, we have a new launch time, and the countdown resumes. The countdown is once again put on hold. It seems that the winds at the launch pad are too high for launch. The winds have calmed, we are counting down to a new launch time. Once again the countdown is put on hold. This time we have a frozen cryogenic fuel valve. As they are working through the valve issue, it’s interesting to see how people who have been here since 3:00am, are passing the time. A few dolphins stopped by, that kept us entertained for a while. There is a glimmer of hope, around 9:30am the countdown is resumed. A wave of excitement moves through the crowd, everyone gets ready for the launch. Hopes are dashed just as the 9:44am launch window closes, the launch is scrubbed! The valve issue has not been resolved. So we try again tomorrow.
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The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, Where the action is!