Thursday, February 9, 2017

Feb. 8, 2017  to Merritt Island and the Cape Canaveral Sea Shore:

 This was the one place I knew I wanted to go to before we even came to Orlando.  I came across several people at Wakodahatchee last year that said I had to go to Merritt Island for the best birding.  It is a bit of a drive from the Orlando area---about 1 1/2 hours, but it was a pretty drive.
Our first hint that we were going over a large body of water and over to an island.
 heading onto the island.

Looked like a lot of potential right off the bat.
 We figured we'd hit the visitor center first and get their advise. 
 There happened to be a pair of nesting Osprey there.
 We wandered around the visitors center area a bit, then took off to the 6 mile drive through birding route.
 One of our first residents---a Grebe. 
 Lots of "herds" of American Coots
 a snowy egret
 waiting alligator
 glossy ibis
 green heron
 another alligator
 I believe this is a Little Blue Heron
 another alligator
 a flock of Shovelers
 a Dunlin sandpiper?
 a milkweed butterfly?
 tri color heron
 wild flowers and lots of those white butterflies.
 Snowy egret
 Roseate Spoonbill
 At a few points we got out and were able to wander around.

 I wandered down this path.  Didn't see much
 just some wild flowers and butterflies.
 spent quite a while trying to find this guy--a bittern.
 We even walked over to this overlook and enjoyed the nice breeze blowing through there.  It was another warm Feb. day with temps in the 80s.
 From the overlook we could see these spoonbills
 only spoonbills we saw this week.
 a wider view of the wetlands of Merritt Island

 I believe this is another glossy ibis
 a few Moorhens
 even saw a couple baby wild boars.
 and another alligator---sure are a lot of alligators there.
 view of the road
 a flock of coots watching an alligator swimming near them.

 Nice road for the driving tour
 the typical canal alongside the road

 another Green Heron
 it was a pretty ride even when there were no birds

 a couple exhibitionist Vultures.
 There was a marina nearby that is known for having manatees in it, so we went to check it out.  They were there, but we really couldn't see them too well.
 Later we saw a land tortoise.
 I thought it would be nice to catch sunset at Canaveral National Sea Shore right there on Merritt Island, so we headed there about 5.
 I was disappointed to see they close at 6, a little before sunset.  At least we got in free with Ken's senior National Parks pass.
 Saw an armadillo wondering around near the beach
 We rode all the way to the end of the shore road.  I hoped we'd see the ocean, but never did from the road---just a berm with scrubby brush on it.
 So I got out and walked over to the beach.
 It was really clouding up, so the views weren't as great as I had hoped.  But it was still great seeing the ocean again.

 After being attacked by a billion pin point sized insects up by the brush, I decided to go down to the shoreline and see if that would get me away from the little buggers.  Didn't escape them all, but did see a lot of shells down there.
 and some sandpipers.
 About 5:50 we decided we better head on out before the park closed.
It was another fun day, but I was a little disappointed.  I actually liked the drive through at Apopka Lake better then the one at Merritt Island.  And I like Wakodahatchee better then either.  Merritt Islands big advantage is the beach, but I wasn't expecting to get eaten alive by so many tiny insects.  I don't remember ever being attacked like that before!  Worst part about it is I had bug spray in the car---which I used after the first stop.  I still ended up with a ton of welts and blisters---and a few days of intense itching.  But I'm still glad we went.  

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