Well, maybe not the entire first day but at least the first part of the day. I was up early around 4am so that I could get to Merritt Island NWR by sunrise. I had packed my SUV up the night before so I only had a few things to take down as I was leaving. After an obligatory stop at Dunkin Donuts in Fort Pierce I made good time and arrived in Titusville just as it was starting to lighten up … notice I did not mention the sun coming up as you will see from most of the pictures there was very, very little in the way of sunshine on my first day.
Not only was there very little sun it was cold and windy! The wind made for a very bad hair or should I say feather day. The weather conditions weren’t the greatest but there was still a tremendous amount of bird activity and I had an enjoyable 5 hours or so around the refuge. I drove Blackpoint Drive and Biolab Road and stopped at the visitors center seeing just over 40 species with many being new for the year.
The main reason I stop at Merritt Island are the fantastic number of Ducks that Winter there. There are often a dozen or so species in really huge numbers and while there were quite a few around I believe the weather kept the overall numbers down. I did have Blue and Green-winged Teal, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintail, Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked and Mottled Ducks, American Wigeon, Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers and a new one for me at Merritt Island a Redhead.
There was also a few shorebirds around including a nice group of Red Knots along Biolab Road. This was also a new one for me at this location.
One of the other reasons I like Merritt Island is probably the easiest place to find Florida Scrub Jays. This is Florida’s only endemic bird (one not seen in any other place). There is a part of the refuge that is called Scrub Ridge Trail where the Jays are fairly reliable but I have found that the pay station that leads out to Canaveral National Seashore is becoming the go to spot for this species and I wasn’t dissapointed this morning. There were 3-4 Jays feeding near the road and this guy shows you just how strong the wind was still blowing.
My good friend Cheryl had visited the refuge a week earlier and told me about a Great Horned Owl that has taken over an Ospreys nest. It was still on the nest and blessed me with a quick look.
I left Merritt Island around 1pm and headed towards Lighthouse Point Park and Daytona Beach Shores. I was hoping the weather would improve as I drove North but as you’ll see in the next post I’d have to wait to the following day to see any sun.
Thanks for stopping by and God Bless!