Home Away from Home - Winter 2020 travel blog

squeezing dinner in

lumpy throat





blue heron

wood stork




Every year bird lovers from around the world gather in Titusville for a bird festival. Serious bird watchers get up before the crack of dawn, keep life lists, knock fellow watchers out of the way to get a better view. We are not serious bird watchers. But around here you can hardly miss the birds who are often passing through or wintering here just as we are. Many are not the petite dull drab brown birds we pretend to see at home. Here they are big, often colorful, and fish catchers, which mean they spend a lot of time poised in one spot giving us plenty of time to notice and sometimes even photograph them. Even though we are bird watcher imposters, we always look at the field trips sponsored by the festival, which give us leads on many good spots to hike, cameras in hand. This year we were surprised to see that some of their field trips were inside our campground resort. We attend a presentation from their keynote speaker which took place on our site. The speaker talked about a trip she had taken to Nagaland, a state in India that abuts Myanmar. We found traveling to New Delhi taxing enough, but getting to Nagaland from Delhi was an exercise in courage and fortitude. The roads were non existent and there was little electricity once they were there. The attraction was the migration of Amur falcons. To me these birds looked like typical falcons, but there are literally millions of them that migrate together and if you are in Nagaland on the correct four days you can see the sky full of them. Miss the window of opportunity and you see nothing. That lady was a genuine bird watcher. On a cold, rainy day we went to the bird festival vendor hall where new cameras and lenses are for sale and more importantly, trip vendors talk to you about how you too can go to interesting places like Nagaland. We always pick up a future travel idea or two after speaking with these folks. We found a company that books travel groups together on typical Caribbean cruises and arranges special bird watching tours in every port. That could be much more interesting and meaningful than sitting on a beach drinking rum punch.

Inspired, we set off on a drive on Black Point, a one way road through the Merritt Island National Refuge near the NASA space center. The first time we went there, the place knocked our socks off. We saw so many birds, we could not stop photographing them. However, this is not Disneyland and on subsequent visits the bird viewing was relatively disappointing. We did not appreciate how lucky we were the first time we went there. But on a warm, dry blue sky day it's fun to wander around the refuge, driving the one-way road and walking down the paths between the little lakes. It's hard to tell how shallow the water is until you realize that the fishing birds are only wet up their little knees. We watched one good sized heron who killed a fish before we got there and was flipping it up in the air, trying to position it so it would slide down his gullet. When he finally succeeded, you could see the fish shape jammed in his throat. We wondered how long it would take him to digest it. There were plenty of birds around today, but generally they stayed far enough away that we were not sure what they were. Even when they are close we are often not sure what they are. Just about the time we get up to speed on the local wildlife, we head north and begin to forget their names once again. Not good bird watcher behavior.

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