A couple days ago during a late night beach fishing session I found myself having an intense conversation about what the Melbourne Beach town mascot would be. Our town is blessed with some amazing wildlife. We scanned the possibilities. Should it be the graceful Bottlenose dolphin, the enduring Loggerhead Sea Turtle, the toxic Portuguese Man o' War, the brute Bull shark, or the terrifying Florida Alligator? We kept that list going for a good 30 minutes experimenting with fighting scenarios such as how a Florida Manatee would be ravaged by even the smallest and weakest of animals like the Florida Scrub Jay. The Manatee often comically gets the short end of the stick during these conversations.
I came to realize that between all of my local friends we have an extremely vast knowledge of our ecology. It's just another aspect of what makes this little piece of paradise so unique. A common activity in our town is staying up late in search of nesting sea turtles on the beach. Every year thousands of turtles nest on our communities beaches supporting the life cycle of 5 different species of sea turtles (See the Sea Turtle Preservation Society). Growing up our school field trips often included hikes along the Indian River Lagoon with the aim of identifying flora and fauna such as Florida mangroves or the Great Blue Heron. Students, residents, and tourists in Melbourne Beach are now able to check out the Barrier Island Sanctuary which is a prime source of information about the incredibly nature in this area.
After numerous conversations, debates, and info session I've finally made up my mind on the Melbourne Beach mascot. While all the incredible wildlife I've mentioned up to now have a significant presence in our town only one sticks out as being an actual resident in the town of Melbourne Beach. A local Osprey family has lived here as long as I can remember.
As a 6th grader attending Gemini Elementary I recall the Osprey family building a comfortable sized nest across the street at Flutie Field at the top of one of the baseball field light polls. Since then the family has moved several times due to hurricane damage and I've lost track of their current address. Fortunately, I've seen our friend quite often lately. The bread winner of the family has chosen our dock as the point of attack for its meals.
Like clockwork, everyday I see this poised raptor contemplating its next meal. These hawks are expert fisherman and have few if no natural enemies. While Bald Eagles express a formal grace in appearance, the Osprey is a smaller and more wily version. It's wings and feathers are less pronounced in color and its actions are more dynamic. If the Bald Eagle is wearing a tuxedo and driving in a limo then the Osprey is wearing a leather jacket and riding a motorcycle. Most of the time it just sits there looking out at the river just waiting to make its move. Most attacks happen around sunset, which makes the show that much more enjoyable.
I'm confident that the debate over the Melbourne Beach mascot will continue for years to come. Again, it's just a piece of what makes our home so unique.