"Could I have this dance for the rest of my life?" - Anne Murray

Monday, January 28, 2013

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Another great use of US tax payers' money, and another freebie with our Senior Pass! Thank you again Theodore Roosevelt for starting the National Wildlife Refuge System. The Refuge is 140,000 acres of ponds, marshes and scrub on the watery coast of eastern Florida, near Titusville and the Kennedy Space Center. It's part of what's called the Space Coast.  Merritt Island is home to one of the premier birding locations in the South. We spent a half day there just getting our bearings, and look forward to many more visits while we're in the area.  

We drove a couple of loops: Gator Drive and Black Point Wildlife Drive. Both were excellent for viewing ducks and wading birds, and we saw several alligators on Gator Drive. The pictures in the post were taken by Rick! He's got a telephoto lens on his Sony A77 camera, so he often handles the wild bird pictures, and he got some great shots.  

This first one is a red-bellied woodpecker.  Yes, you'd think it would be called a red-headed woodpecker, but it does have a little reddish patch on its lower belly. They're supposedly common here in the south, but this is the first we've seen them.  We encountered this one near the Visitors' Center.

Here's a belted kingfisher, one of my all time favorite birds.  His hairdo is so bold and chaotic.

We saw many northern pintails, the first for both of us.  

A loggerhead shrike. Great name.

We were fortunate to see several roseate spoonbills. How often do you see a pink bird?

And a flock of white pelicans. Brown pelicans are the more common kind along most US coast, but there are pockets of white ones here in Florida, and strangely enough, in the northern Rocky Mountains, where we have also seen them.

We're staying at The Great Outdoors, a large RV resort bounded on three sides by preserves of various sorts, and close by to several more, including Merritt Island. We'll be here for a month and hope to visit many of them and see lots more wildlife.  Florida is just bursting with it.  

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