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.

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Bajillions of Snow Geese

dsc_0367It was almost 5 am, well below freezing, and I was clumsily trying to attach my camera to my tripod with gloved fingers. The last of the stars had finally given way to the growing light in the eastern sky, but the sun wouldn’t be up for a while yet.

A class of a dozen photography students arrived and began setting up their cameras next to me. Their fancy lenses dwarfed mine. Not for the first time, I wondered what in the world I was doing here!

Of course, I’d love to be back in bed sound asleep, or at least in the coffee shop with a nice hot cup of tea, but 50,000 snow geese, glistening white in their winter plumage, were sleeping on the wetlands in front of me. At some point in the next hour or so, the growing daylight would reach a critical intensity, and the entire flock would lift off as one, circle overhead, and then fly off into the new day. I wasn’t about to miss it.

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