Last night we were watching the owl family eating dinner, a total gross out if it weren't so interesting. Mama owl has no difficulty providing a fresh meal every few hours in this lush Florida jungle, but her table manners leave something to be desired. They were working on a furry rodent. They ripped him limb from limb, eating the juicy red meat nearest the body and swallowing the whole leg: fur, toenails and all. After vigorous gulping, the alimentary canal seems to get full and the leg dangles from mom's mouth for a while until there is room for another gulp. Yum, yum. Usually Mom makes the baby work for it a bit by bringing the food nearby and making him fly to her. He gets very nervous when she sits on a slender limb and he can't get a good foot hold. He seems to have far more confidence in his leg muscles than his wings. The trees are gnarly and he hops from one zig to another zag rather than truly taking flight.
So we were watching this bucolic scene, losing our own appetite for dinner, when the air was pierced by a screaming plane, 200-300 feet over our heads. Mom flew away; baby flattened its body against the tree limb in terror. The owls are used to lots of noise. People around here are always mowing, and blowing and sawing and power washing, but this was something else. The Thunderbirds were rehearsing for the TICO air show. A steady stream of more subdued air craft has been pouring in and it was time to see what it was all about.
Considering the fact that this air show has been an ongoing event for forty years, we found the website somewhat inscrutable and weren't even sure what time to arrive. We knew where the airport and air museum were, but when we drove there the only signs we saw were for parking for the Port Canaveral cruise port. After circling the airport grounds for a while, we turned in at those signs and finally found ourselves where we needed to be. Friends told us that the best place for viewing was the beer tent. We're not beer aficionados, but the tent provided shelter from the weather, chairs, and food and drinks while the show was underway. As we entered the show grounds, we asked where the tent was and people waved vaguely. We wandered around admiring planes parked on the grounds and climbing inside some and eventually came to the tent. Then the haphazard tenor of the whole operation changed markedly.
The Air Force has a huge presence in the Titusville area with Patrick Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station nearby. The museum at TICO has a huge collection of old military planes, lovingly restored and brought back into flying condition. The annual air show is a chance to show off all these old aircraft and enjoy some new technology as well. The show began mid afternoon and went nonstop until well after dark. It began with hot sports cars trying to race a helicopter. None of them had a chance. Then the Thunderbirds took off and we put in our ear plugs. Their tight formations and deft maneuvers were awesome. They were followed, perhaps anticlimactically, by much older planes many WWII era, performing some of those same moves at a much slower, easier to photograph speed. We marveled at how closely even these old planes flew to one another. Over the PA an announcer told us the names and backgrounds of each plane and its pilot. A surprising percentage were also pilots for Southwest Airlines. One act had ground support which blew giant smoke rings into the air and the pilots maneuvered to fly through them. These acrobatics continued until well after sunset. Then after a brief pause when a truck powered by three jet engines drove down the runway over 300 mph. One can only ask why. After one more swooping, swirling aircraft, flying in total darkness, it was time for fireworks. The show was as good as any we've seen, culminating in a giant explosion of fire along the runway. There have been lots of reports in the news about fire danger since the weather in FL has been so dry this winter, but no one seemed worried about it here.
It was a great show and we hope to see part of it again tomorrow from our campground , catching views of the Thunderbirds from under the palm trees. Hope the owls have gotten used to it.