Birding Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Titusville, Florida, is an amazing destination to see a wide variety of wildlife including, of course, birds! And while I didn’t lead any field trips to the refuge this year during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival I did visit the refuge on a couple of occasions. In addition to the usual stops at the visitor’s center (where it seems like every winter there are Painted Buntings coming to the feeders) and doing the wonderful auto loop that is Black Point Wildlife Drive, I also explored a couple of other spots in the refuge, which is a pretty impressive 140,000 acres.
As is my wont of late instead of giving a blow-by-blow, bird-by-bird summary of my visits to the refuge I will simply use pictures and their captions to explain where I went and what I saw. I hope you like these images and I hope you get a chance to visit Merritt Island someday soon!
(By the way, quite a few of the pictures here are clickable and lead to bigger versions. So, if you see one that you like, click it! You may get to see it even larger…)
Florida Scrub-Jays are, of course, endemic to Florida. They are also amazingly confiding at Scrub Ridge, where they have been known to land on people.
Though there is signage that prohibits the feeding of the scrub-jays at Scrub Ridge, it was clear that not everyone followed that simple rule. How do I know? Well, in addition to the fact that the birds approach people very closely, they also dug peanuts up from where they had cached them and brought them to me as if to say, “This is what we want! Why didn’t you bring any?”
No trip to Merritt Island can be considered a success without lots of great looks at big wading birds. This Wood Stork was one of ten species of waders that was taking advantage of a pool that must have been teeming with fish and other underwater food sources.
American White Pelicans and their brown brethren are a frequent sight in the skies over Merritt Island. It always pays to keep at least one eye up!
Roseate Spoonbills are one of my favorite Florida birds.
Both this photo and the one above it were taken at the same pool that the Wood Stork was coming in to. I spent over an hour there just marveling at all the waders.
Though there were less ducks around Merritt Island than in years past, thanks to low water levels, there were still plenty of Northern Pintails. That is one sexy duck.
Most of the shorebirds I spotted during my time at Merritt Island stayed relatively distant. Not this Greater Yellowlegs though.
The parking lot at the Biolab Boat Launch had a coterie of Black Vultures. They were nearly tame.
One good vulture deserves another! This Turkey Vulture was along the road to Peacocks Pocket, which I highly recommend as a great place from which to watch the sun set.
Another wader! This Glossy Ibis was feeding in a roadside ditch on the way out to Peacocks Pocket.
And this White Ibis was one of many coming in to roost in the marsh at Peacocks Pocket. Its a great place for some late-day photography.
Can you ask for anything cooler than a Black Skimmer skimming? Peacocks Pocket had it all!
Like I said, sunset at Peacocks Pocket is great. You just have to find a way to keep birds, like this Boat-tailed Grackle, out of the way.
Aah. There’s the sunset without a bird obstructing the view. Get to Merritt Island as soon as you can. You’ll love it!
10,000 Birds is a Scrub Jay level sponsor of the 17th Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival.