Minnesota Girl Just Happy To Be In Florida

I arrived on Tuesday for the annual Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival. It's my first time for the festival and word on the street is that this is one huge mama jama on the bird fest scale. Rumor has it that over 4,000 people are expected to attend (how's that for a rough economy). People are coming from all over the word. I met someone who came all the way from China for the festival, and I'm fairy certain the four Japanese guys in the room below mine are here for the fest too--Sweet!

I did a little pre-festival digiscoping. After being cooped up in the sub-zero weather last week, I'm just happy to be here...even if the temps are between 40 - 50 degrees Fahrenheit--I'll take it! Before our trip leader meeting on Tuesday night at the fabu Dixie Crossroads restaurant, I dashed over to Merritt Island (a mere hop, skip, and jump from my hotel). That's where I took the photo from the previous entry asking you how many birds are in the photo. There are 2:

Not sure what other birds some people were seeing the photo--or drinking while looking at the photo ;)!Spotting the snipe was the weirdest thing. First I saw some killdeer (that's one in the above photo, bottom left). When I pulled over and scanned (without binoculars, I saw the lump behind and thought to myself snipe). I dashed for my scope to try and get a photo.

It as challenging to get a photo because it was super windy. But I did manage to get a few without the snipe taking off for the hills. I've said it before and I'll say it again--birds in Florida are just more mellow and laid back than in Minnesota. You pause for just one second on a snipe in Minnesota and there off. Here, they sit there and wait for you, like it's expected. I even found three more snipe lurking in the surrounding grasses.

I love this shot. The way the grass is bent in the wind, it almost looks like this snipe has a mustache its about to twirl while it tells you its nefarious plans. As I took the photos and stood in the cold wind, I asked myself how I knew these were snipe. I'm in an entirely different state, different habitat, but I just knew at distance these were snipe, deep in my gut, no question. I think it was the size in relation to the surrounding killdeer, the general shape, the lurking, the big head and long bill. GISS birding strikes again.

But back to the pleasures of birding in Florida, the birds just don't care. I was able to get some reasonable shots of pintails, even with wind and explaining my digiscoping setup. As I was just snapping away, a couple came up to ask about my set up. They had the same Swarovski scope that I use, but weren't sure about the adaptor. I put the scope on the northern pintail and took several shots.

Look at that sassy duck! It's as if he knows he's the hottest piece of pintail on the lagoon. Here's hoping that a red-cockaded woodpecker will do the same for me on Thursday!

While on the Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island, I came across a huge raft (folk name for a flock of coots) of American coots. That's not even all of them. There were two more smaller rafts gradually joining this large one.

They were feeding on something and it almost looked as though the large group was driving at some kind of prey just below the water's surface. You can see all kinds of splashing was going on in the above photo.

I tried to get a shot of the coots from smaller rafts, scurry/flap across the water's surface to join the larger group. You can see by the large splashes, that one has already left, and the second one is chasing after it. You know, I've never seen a huge flock of coots fly. The closest I have ever seen a coot fly is the splashy run they do across the water. They must fly. In Minnesota in the fall, you'll be on a lake one day and there's relatively few waterfowl. The next morning, tons of coots. They seem to stick around until the water freezes, then magically disappear. They must only fly at night. I wonder if they are messy and haphazard flyers. Taking wing high in the sky only in the cover of darkness, because they would be easy targets for eagles, hawks, and falcons. What do they look like when they fly? How high can they go? Are they in formation?

So many cooty questions. Have any of you seen coots fly--like above tree level?