Earlier this month, I was able to visit Merritt IslandNational Wildlife Refuge for the first time. My wife and I were at Disney World on vacation but set aside a couple of extra days birding along the Atlantic Coast. Merritt Island was the natural choice given everything that I had heard about it from other birders and its proximity to Orlando (~75 minutes away). We were not disappointed!
|Merritt Island is One of the Sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail|
|A Typical Scene at the Refuge|
When you visit this refuge, be sure to that your first stop is at the Visitor Center. It is a really cool building, plus their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and provided us with fantastic information about the refuge. As an added bonus, in the fall and winter, the feeders at the center tend to have some Painted Buntings present!
|Visitor Center and Boardwalk|
|Pied-billed Grebe along the Black Point Wildlife Drive|
|Tricolored Heron along the Black Point Wildlife Drive|
|Anhinga - One of the Most Common Species along the Wildlife Drive|
For any serious birder, one of the main draws of this refuge is the large population of Florida Scrub-Jays that call this place home. The best place to view this species is along the Scrub Ridge Trail. I saw a couple of Scrub-Jays while I was on this trail, but the mosquitoes were ferocious and drove me back to the car. The best sighting for me along the trail was a Gopher Tortoise that I was able to photograph. It was a lifer reptile for me!
|Gopher Tortoise on the Scrub Ridge Trail|
|Northern Gannet from Canaveral National Seashore|
Hopefully I have inspired you to visit Merritt Island! And, if you happen to be in the area in late January, be sure to check out the Space Coast Birding Festival.