November 14, 2016

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge at Kennedy Space Center


Hi folks! Here's a quick post to tell you about our quick birding run through Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

I took my friend Cindy with me to sort of scope out the grounds in preparation for bringing my parents on an outing there. It's an hour's drive from Melbourne so I wanted to make sure the roads were open and the birds were there. (I had heard that the birds have pretty much abandoned the Refuge.)

First we stopped at the welcome center to buy a pass (1 day car pass is $5) and get a map. There's a nice boardwalk that loops through the swampy area behind the building. Cindy and I walked it and were amazed to see a big old alligator sunning himself (it was a cloudy day but whatever) on a wooden platform in the middle of a pond. Many of the plants are marked if you're into botanical gardens and such.

We saw some uprooted trees and wind damage from Hurricane Matthew, but that's expected. They got hit a lot harder up there at the Cape.

We decided to drive on the Black Point Wildlife Drive knowing that my parents would prefer a car ride, and the graveled road was well packed and not at all pitted. And what a surprise we had! There were birds everywhere! We weren't expecting to be so entertained. Our first glorious sight was a flock of roseate spoonbills, which I had never seen before. That was worth the trip for me.

For such a quick drive through the park we managed to spot, close up, quite a few birds. And not one or two -- there were many of each species. My very amateur photos, all taken with my Samsung Android 6 phone, are below.

Great blue heron
Little blue heron
Tricolored heron
Common egret
White ibis
Glossy ibis
Roseate spoonbill
Anhinga
Belted kingfisher
Gallinule
Coot
Vultures, ospreys, brown ducks and ALLIGATORS

Speaking of alligators, Cindy witnessed an alligator leaping into the air and flipping into a turn, then splashing down and disappearing in the water. I saw the commotion out of the corner of my eye and when I turned my head towards the loud splash I had missed the sight, but he reappeared about 15 feet from where he started and he was huge. All in all we saw one little alligator, one medium one (in the pond by the welcome center, see photo below) and three really scary big alligators. We guessed that the big guy we saw and heard had caught some food. For such big, ugly motionless creatures they sure do move fast!

The alligator behind the welcome center.

This anhinga was preening and showing the pretty white on his wings.

A group of coots swimming around.

Glossy ibis (foreground) and Little blue heron. Looks like a Great blue heron flying (left).

Group of Little blue herons parading in the center, with White ibis in the foreground.

The roseate spoonbills were all together in one area.

Another shot of the roseate spoonbills.

A close look at a Tricolored heron.

Here's another Tricolored heron.These guys like to squawk.
The Refuge website has a page for road closings and alerts, so if you're planning a trip there be sure to check the park's availability first.

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