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Departing Sub, Port Canaveral, 5/30/09

Departing Sub, Port Canaveral, 5/30/09

We spent three nights last weekend camping at Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral. It may seem odd to go camping just 20 minutes or so from the house but it was a nice break from our normal routine and we actually got onto the beach for awhile. Although we live 7 miles as the crow flies from the ocean, we rarely actually walk on the beach, much less go in the water. Hey, we’re locals.

Jetty Park is the farthest north you can go on the beach before the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station/Kennedy Space Center complex. It is part of Port Canaveral and used to be a favorite spot for watching Space Shuttle launches. One of the “things to do” is to watch the traffic arrive and depart from the port. Commercial fishing boats and ocean-going cargo vessels are common sights. Just across the channel is a berth for submarines — boomers — that stage out of here when they utilize the missile test range off the coast. On a previous visit we saw one heading out to sea. However, a daily sight are the comings and goings of the cruise ships. Every afternoon, starting about 4:30 or 5:00, these huge floating pleasure palaces float on by with thousands of partiers on board. Or in the case of the Disney ships, a whole bunch of relaxing parents and wired kids. Whatever. A “thing to do” is to gather on the side of the channel to watch these hotels of the sea head out. It’s a bit of a party atmosphere. The impression you can’t help but take away is that damn, those things are HUGE!

Port Canaveral, FL, 3/9/13

Port Canaveral, FL, 3/9/13

The thought of spending a ton of money to cruise to nowhere while spending even more money every time we want an adult beverage is not our idea of a great time, but hey, whatever floats your boat (pun intended). Our idea of cruising is a week or two in the BVIs (or Tahiti, hint hint) on a catamaran that’s well stocked with rum. The photos included here are of the Carnival Dream heading out last Saturday evening. As I type this, the Carnival folks have just announced that they will gladly fly ALL of the passengers, 4300 of them, back home from St. Maarten where the vessel is currently docked. They had a generator failure and are stuck at the dock. Passengers are reportedly not being let off the boat despite reports of, um, “unsanitary” conditions aboard.

Good times.

CruiseShip_1

Port Canaveral, FL, 3/9/13

Finally: below is my first ever youtube upload. It’s the view from the picnic table at our campsite. If you get bored, skip to 1:30, then go to 2:00. (And note the people in the tubular water slide.)

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Cooper's Hawk, Rockledge, FL 2/24/13

Adult Cooper’s Hawk, Rockledge, FL 2/24/13

The Gray Cat and I were standing on the screen porch checking out the back yard the other day when a big brown hawk swooped by. He (she?) was about 10′ out and no more than 2′ off the ground and moving at a pretty good clip. He ended up sitting on a pole in my neighbor’s yard so I ran inside, grabbed the camera and went back out. I thought the shots came out OK, but he split to the power line after only a few. The image to the right is heavily cropped; megapixels to the rescue, but click on it to see it full-size. Nice. I liked it enough to want to post it, but I wanted to know what I was showing, so I emailed a copy to my buddy, George, and asked him a simple question: what is it?

George, as well as his partner Maureen, is an avid bird watcher. He lives in urban Baltimore and rural Virginia, regularly alternating between the two places.  Many times I’ve been with him as he’s driving and he’ll gyrate in his seat pointing out some avian as we slow and weave. He and Maureen even went to Cuba with the Audubon Society for a bird census. If anyone could answer me, he could do so pretty simply and straightforwardly: “Why that’s a <insert bird here>”. A few words and done.

Nope.

I received 2 emails back-to-back asking questions: “was it in FL?”, “how big’s the pole?”.  Then I got my answer. And a few words:

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Well, it is a Cooper’s Hawk, Accipiter cooperii. That was my first guess since it is the most common accipiter on the East coast from Florida to New England. Adults measure 16-17 inches and that jives with the scale (I actually scaled your full photo with my architect’s scale 🙂

It could have been a Sharp-Shinned Hawk if it were 3/4 of that size but they are less frequent. Likewise it could have been a Northern Goshawk if larger (X 1 1/4) and you took the photo in GSMNP. Goshawks don’t go down to Florida though. They are a sensible bird.

Accipiters are “bird hawks”…as their main diet is birds (but they will also take lizards and the like, so that Cooper’s is probably loving it in your backyard) I occasionally see them on our property in Rappahannock County. They dash in from the woods in a burst of speed and snatch a bird from our bird feeders then fly off. Even had a Cooper’s frequenting my back yard when I lived on Pilgrim Rd. in Baltimore. They are everywhere. Awesome predator. They can dart through woods with amazing speed and maneuverability due to their feather design…something to watch! I’ve had the good fortune to witness it several times. Mother Nature’s original stealth fighter.

I know, I know…This is probably more information than you need or want to know…and don’t get me started talking about Buteo hawks. Caption the photo as an adult Cooper’s Hawk.

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He can talk like that about trees, too.
George, 1/14/12

George, 1/14/12