Merritt Island NWR 12/8/2022

I spent a few moments before sunrise last Thursday morning at Scobie Park (just south of Veterans Memorial Park in Titusville), watching the pre-dawn clouds reflecting in the calm Indian River water. Oh, and I had a camera with me too – I made 6 frames to stitch together into this image:

The day beginsThe day begins

After that I wandered over to Black Point Wildlife Drive and one of the first things I saw was this:

Large numbers of birds were going after minnows concentrated in this small pond along Black Point Wildlife Drive.

These “feeding frenzies” don’t happen all the time, but when they do they can be great photo fun.

At first glance, they look like a photographer’s dream – all those birds in a confined area – taking off, landing, chasing minnows and each other, just waiting for you to snap the shutter.

It turns out it’s not so easy. They’re crowded together against a cluttered background. They move quickly, change directions unexpectedly, and in general make it hard to pick a subject and compose deliberately – especially if you’re looking through your viewfinder with a long lens on your camera. I often keep the camera away from my eyes so I can see what’s going on. Then I can sometimes anticipate the action and make a photo when they all decide to move at once:

Exodus Exodus

I also like to study the scene for a while and try different vantage points and lenses. I chose a spot where the wind was at my back and most of the birds were taking off and landing toward me. It helps to keep looking around so you can spot them as they’re coming in. I noticed this spoonbill a long way out. Since I knew where it was headed I could track it as it approached and make several frames when it landed. This side lit one is my favorite:

Landing SpoonbillLanding Spoonbill

There were lots of Roseate Spoonbills around. The header image at the top of the post on the web is another one I like from the trip. That pair was wading in a less busy part of the drive.

I also had some good luck with this female Belted Kingfisher. She ignored me and kept gazing out over the water as I crept closer. I stayed in the car, moved slowly and tried to be as quiet as possible so I wouldn’t bother her. Most of the time, they leave as soon as you point a camera at them, but she wasn’t concerned at all. This is one of the closest photos I’ve made of one (the EXIF data says I was about 19 meters away). She’s very pretty and quite regal, I think.

An Unusually Calm KingfisherAn Unusually Calm Kingfisher

It was a short visit, but a wonderful one. This is an excellent time of year to visit the refuge, get out in the midst of nature, and enjoy some of the things you can see there.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  I hope all of you are doing well and that you have a joyful holiday season with your family and friends. Stay positive, be kind, take care of yourselves and each other. And if you can, make a few photos!

©2022, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

10 thoughts on “Merritt Island NWR 12/8/2022

  1. Such an excellent post this morning, sir. Love reading your write-ups and studying your photography. I’ve learned a lot over the years from you. Now that we are in Fort Myers instead of Melbourne, we really miss seeing all the birds at wetlands areas. We suffer from a dearth of such bird residences in southwest Florida.

    1. Thank you Rob

      I’m not very familiar with the Fort Meyers area. I wonder if your local Audubon chapter could help with some local birding spots / wetlands?


  2. I’m having MINWR withdrawal symptoms!

    That sunrise panorama is really special, Ed.

    I know what you mean about a large number of birds being a challenge. “An excess of riches!” The landing spoonbill is fabulous. Looks like she’s on fire.

    Emerging from (I hope) the last stages of flu. Got out with the camera yesterday for the first time in over two weeks. Hope all is well with you and yours.

    1. Thanks Wally!

      I hope you’re feeling completely well soon. Lynn and I have been lucky so far this winter. We’ll have a lot of company over the next couple of weeks, though. Hope we don’t catch anything, but seeing family and friends is important.

  3. Hi Ed … Those are great images. You must live very close to Merritt Island.
    You make me want to make a trip up there for a sunrise, but I live 3 hours away!
    Do you think the spoonbills stay active all day?

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you!

      I usually go over there in the morning, so I don’t have enough experience to answer your question. I’d guess that most bird activity slows down in the middle of the day, but don’t know for sure.

  4. The pink spoonbill shot is amazing, but so are the others! I saw gray spoonbills in Africa, but really really want to see your pink ones!

    1. Thanks Vicki. The Roseate Spoonbills seem to be getting more numerous near me, but I don’t see them all the time. I think they’re a bit more common at Merritt Island National Wildlife refuge in the winter months.

      I’d really like to see some of your African gray spoonbills too!

  5. The Roseate Spoonbill is my favorite Florida bird….but you probably know that already. I always mention it! lol The landing photo is gorgeous and I love the pair in your banner. It is fun to see so many birds together and usually I get so excited, I bounce up and down…which is not great for photo taking! Love your photos and hope to go there some day! Happy holidays, Diane

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