No Joke: Birding Merritt Island NWR, Part I

Yesterday was a comedy of errors.  We got out late, took the longest possible route to get there, dodged heavy thundershowers, yet still ended up with several life birds, over 50 species and some really great photographs.

For some reason I thought taking I-4 out of Orlando would be the fastest route to get there.  I couldn’t have been more wrong, but along the way we did see many Osprey, Turkey Vulture and Black Vulture.  The one thing that made this mistake tolerable was that both Danika and I were able to finally get a good solid look at an American Swallow-Tailed Kite, which made it all worth while.

Merritt Island NWR is located just outside of Titusville, Florida and just north of the Kennedy Space Center, who actually owns the land.  Coming across the bridge from the mainland we were able to quickly add Brown Pelican and Royal Tern.  Stopping at the first information booth, we came across three guardians of the refuge, a Loggerhead Shrike, an Osprey and of course an American Alligator.

Loggerhead Shrike

Osprey

Our bad luck to an extent continued, we happened to visit on a day when the USFWS was doing a controlled burn through out parts of the refuge, meaning lots of smoke and not a lot of birds.  Just before turning onto the wildlife drive however, an Anhinga allowed itself to be photographed and I finally got to appreciate the subtle coloration’s of this bird.

Anhinga

We then turned onto the wildlife drive, hoping to quickly drive down it and then head over to try and Find Florida Scrub Jay.  Well lets just say things didn’t work out, but it was really worth it.  The first bird spotted on the wildlife drive was a Tricolored Heron, the first of many.  In fact Tricolored Heron would be the most common Heron seen on the drive.

Tricolored Heron

The various wetlands, swamps, marshes and lagoons held many, many birds.  A sampling of photographs for your enjoyment is below.

White Ibis,

Northern Shoveler

Black-necked Stilt

Immature White Ibis

About half way through the drive, there are some bathrooms and this friendly fellow standing just outside them.

American Alligator

If you have ever been to Florida, then you know how common Boat-tailed Grackles are.  Danika was absolutely taken with them, especially the females, which when you really think about it, are quite pretty.

Female, Boat-tailed Grackle

After this point, the canals, ponds and swamps were filled with Common Moorhens, American Coots and the occasional Sora.

American Coot

Next we spotted our surprise mammal of the day, which you will have to wait until next time to find out what it is.  I’ll give you a hint however, it was black, furry and must have weighed close to 300 pounds.  Go ahead and post your guesses in the comments and find out later how close you were (or were not).  Plus we will have a lot of cool bird pictures as well.

Have fun and I’m off to Epcot, then we are driving to Ft. Myers and Ding Darling NWR.

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2 responses to “No Joke: Birding Merritt Island NWR, Part I

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