Trip Report: Merritt Island NWR

It’s January. Where can you find warmth, green leaves, and lots of birds? We found all three at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Located on Florida’s Space Coast, Merritt Island shares a boundary with Cape Canaveral. You can actually see the launch pad off in the distance as you enter the refuge. Apparently launches don’t discourage the birds from hanging out nearby. Maybe that’s because they know they can fly circles around any rocket!

The day we arrived, the temperature was predicted to hit 83°. In my opinion, that’s perfect January weather! We planned to show up at dawn but we didn’t quite make it. Still, it was plenty early and the birds were out and about.


Believe Your Eyes

nyctanassa_violacea_-ciego_de_avila_province_cuba_-juvenile-8_Some years ago, my friend and I were out birding here in Colorado. It was a month or so after Hurricane Katrina had inundated the Gulf Coast, but that fact was far from our minds on that early morning in August. We had stopped at a little pond alongside the road to check out the ducks and waders, when we spotted a large brown-striped bird standing at the edge of the water. It looked a lot like the bird in this photo (which is courtesy of Laura Gooch via WikiCommons—thank you).

At the time, we were both fairly new birders. We didn’t own one scope between us. As the bird was on the far shore, we took turns squinting through our binos and consulting our field guide. Our view wasn’t nearly as good as the photo here.


Birder Heaven: South Padre Island


South Padre Island is full of hotels, restaurants, condos, fishermen,  and tourists. Since my husband and I were accompanied by some older, non-birding friends, we weren’t able to arrive until midday, definitely not the best time to go birding. Then, when I discovered that the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center now charges admission, I almost turned back. I’m glad I didn’t.

It had been years since our last visit, and things have changed. There is now a large nature center housing some excellent interpretive displays plus the usual nature-related souvenirs. You now have to go through the building (and pay your $5, less for children) to reach the boardwalks that extend out over the bay.