Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Fall is here!

Well, Fall has arrived here in Central Florida.  It’s rescued us from our too hot climate and given us a few days of wonderful cool weather.  So it’s a perfect time to get out and photograph our area’s nature and wildlife, and Kevin M. and I took off early this morning to re-visit Merritt Island National Wildlife Drive.

We arrived at the 406 bridge over the Indian River Lagoon just before sunrise.  The cold front cleared out most of the clouds, so the sunrise wasn’t too spectacular, but we made some photographs anyway.

Indian River Lagoon at dawn
Indian River Lagoon at dawn

Our next stop was Black Point Wildlife Drive.  It’s been closed while they resurface the road, but was open this weekend.  They are going to close it again while they finish.  There’s plenty of water at Black Point, but not too many birds.  We did see several Belted Kingfishers (these are winter visitors) and some of the usual birds (Tri-Colored Herons, a Reddish Egret, Great Blue Herons, etc.).  This Green Heron was posing in a bush on Cruickshank Trail, so I made a portrait.
Little Green Heron portrait

Little Green Heron portrait

Next, we drove over to Scrub Ridge Trail.  Once again the Scrub Jays were easy to find on the trail to the north of the parking area.  We saw a group of 8 – 10 along the left side of the trail.

Florida Scrub Jay with berry or acorn
Florida Scrub Jay with berry or acorn

We also wanted to stop by the visitor center, buy an annual pass ($15), and check to see if the Painted Buntings have arrived (another winter visitor – they aren’t here yet).  While at the center, we found out that there was a guided tour scheduled, but no one had shown up for it, so we decided to go.  Since there were only two of us, Ranger Al gave Kevin and I a semi private tour of Shiloh Marsh Road, which runs for about 10 miles through the marsh and along the lagoon.  It’s a narrow, two-way dirt road with very little room to pass.  We saw  many more birds here than at Black Point, especially on the southern end (near the radar dome).  We saw more Belted Kingfishers, Roseate Spoonbills, White Pelicans, Reddish Egrets, a female Blue Grosbeak, a Yellow Billed Cuckoo; and other species.  Ranger Al was very informative and pointed out all types of flowers, Butterflies, Dragonflies and birds. On the way to Shiloh Marsh Road we also stopped at Haulover Canal where we saw some Manatees.  They spend the hotter months around there and move to warmer waters in the Winter.

White Pelican
White Pelican: There was a large flock of these birds. These are usually migrants in Central Florida, but the ranger said that some had spent the summer.

This outing was a bit longer than our normal excursions – I didn’t get back home until 2:30.  But it was very pleasant – we saw a lot of things and the weather was wonderful.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2011, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

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