Coasting East (Afternoon)

“Can we go around again?”

Like a child at the fair who just got off the pony on the Merry-Go-Round, Gini’s wide brown eyes were hard to resist.

“Yes, but first let’s explore a couple of other spots.”

She concealed her initial disappointment well. Fortunately, new sights and sounds created just as much excitement and awe as our morning excursion around Black Point Wildlife Drive had.

After our lunch of fresh shrimp, we headed toward Bio Lab Road with a bit of trepidation. Last year’s Hurricane Dorian, which devastated portions of the Bahamas, damaged portions of Merritt Island NWR, including Bio Lab Road. Repairs were completed several weeks ago and the road is in much better condition than it was before the storm. Powerful wind and wave action altered some of the shoreline and a lot of trees were downed or damaged.

Bio Lab Road still had plenty to offer! Lots of birds, fish jumping in the lagoon, a healthy population of alligators and even blooming flowers. A breeze coming in from the Atlantic Ocean was very refreshing.

Our next objective was Gator Creek Road. Extensive mud flats make this area prime hunting territory for shore birds and waders. There were thousands of birds there to greet us. Okay, they couldn’t have cared less about us. They were all extremely active as they chased fish, shrimp, crabs and small creatures in the shallow water and in the soft mud. We were not offended at being ignored.

It was getting late and I had promised a certain brown-eyed beauty one more ride on the Merry-Go-Round. Black Point Wildlife Drive had just as many birds in the late afternoon as it had early in the morning. We were fascinated at the diversity on display.

Reluctantly, we headed out of the refuge. One more stop. Just before crossing the bridge into Titusville is Parrish Park, which has picnic pavilions, fishing areas and boat ramps. Just at sunset, the parking lot fills with gulls preparing to roost for the night. On one of the docks, we found an immature Herring Gull as well as an adult flying overhead. Another dock was crowded with a group of Ruddy Turnstones, probably planning to rest for the night.

Crossing the bridge as the sun dropped below the western horizon, the lights of Titusville began to twinkle in the darkening sky and we glanced at each other with that look of total satisfaction which results from a special day together.


Love is in the air. A pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers were inspecting potential nesting sites. A little flirting was also observed.

Merritt Island NWR


More signs of love. This Northern Flicker apparently visited the local tattoo shop and had a pretty red heart inscribed on his back. (Actual facts: The eastern version of the Northern Flicker was once called the “Yellow-shafted Flicker” due to the yellowish undersides of wings and tail. The “Red-shafted Flicker” is usually found in the western parts of North America. The eastern species has a red crescent on the nape, the “heart” seen here, and the male has a black malar stripe.)

Merritt Island NWR


Death stare. This Osprey was convinced we wanted his Speckled Trout. Took his photo and moved on so he could eat in peace.

Merritt Island NWR


Medium-sized Forster’s Terns are mostly silvery-white with a black eye patch, a dark bill and orange feet. During breeding season, they will develop a black cap and the bill will turn orange.

Merritt Island NWR


Throughout the refuge, clouds of pink can be seen as Roseate Spoonbills are somewhat common here. It’s fascinating to watch these large waders sweep their rounded bills through the shallows as they filter small shrimp and fish.

Merritt Island NWR


Wintering American Avocets line up and march across a shallow mud flat herding small minnows and then slashing with their long curved bills as they gorge on the briny buffet.

Merritt Island NWR


A drab-looking Black-bellied Plover almost disappears in the mottled salt marsh habitat. Soon, the males will become a striking figure in bright white and black breeding attire.

Merritt Island NWR


Afternoon alligator.

Merritt Island NWR


A Snowy Egret wonders how the Roseate Spoonbill can catch anything by swishing back and forth with that funny-looking beak. He thinks stabbing with a nice pointy bill is definitely more effective.

Merritt Island NWR


At Parrish Park, just outside the refuge, an immature Herring Gull prepared to hunker down for the night. An adult flew above the boat ramps toward a roost of her own.

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Immature

Merritt Island NWR

Herring Gull – Adult


Another dock about to become a hostel for the night. These Ruddy Turnstones began to huddle up as daylight faded.

Merritt Island NWR



Our drive home was a mirror-image of our trip’s beginning. Orange and purple sky rapidly turned black. Touching hands. We agreed it had been a glorious day. The western sky began to brighten as we neared the light pollution of Orlando. Our timing wasn’t too awful as a mix of folks going home from work and Disney World visitors had thinned a bit so we could reach almost 20 miles-per-hour for a few miles.

Home. Planning our return visit.

Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!


Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Parrish Park – Titusville

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Coasting East (Afternoon)

  1. Ah, found you again, Wally! I’m sorry if I keep repeating myself, but I love the narratives that are part of your blog. In fact, I could spend many a happy hour wandering through such writings and images if there was a books-worth of them. Thank you, again.

    I hope that you and Gini are being particularly careful in these difficult times. I feel that there is a somewhat rocky road ahead of us and some sources here suggest that the more vulnerable of us might be in self-isolation for up to 18 months! We’ll see how it pans out over the next few weeks.

    Stay safe the both of you, and take comfort in the fact that you’re almost certainly going to see even more of each other during the coming months!

    My very best wishes – – – Richard

    • Thank you so very much, Richard, for your kind remarks. They are really appreciated!

      Fortunately, we have been practicing for nigh unto 52 years for self-isolation by being each others’ best friend. Forcing us to associate with one another is a dream!

      However, until they post armed guards at the door, we shall be out and about as much as reasonable. For the sake of humanity, we are limiting our social groups to no more than eight birds (any species) and two alligators at one time.

      We both hope the best for you and Lindsay!

      (Let us know if you run out of food. We have a can of Spam buried in the back yard for emergencies.)

  2. David Gascoigne

    Great series of pictures, Wally. The Roseate Spoonbill is spectacular, of course, but my favourite shot is of the Ruddy Turnstones congregating on the dock. Turnstones always seem uniquely appealing to me. Stay well during these troubled times.

    • Thank you, David!

      I agree on how appealing turnstones are. Seeing one or two working a beach is a joy. Watching a flock twisting and turning as one entity while flying is breathtaking!
      Observing this group made us smile.

      We are trying to walk that line between being reckless and responsible. Went birding today and heading out again tomorrow. Will attempt to remain six feet from all avians encountered.

  3. So many great shots. Love the avocets. I don’t know why they rarely come over to the west coast. I;ve only seen one years ago.

    • I have a theory that they are here but have some method of communication to warn of approaching birders and they all hide.

      Come to think of it, this may be true of migrating warblers as well.

      And Orioles.

      And …..

  4. I think those woodpeckers names Wally and Gini.

    At the moment my son and family are heading for Disney on April 15. For some reason they didn’t wany me to go along and spend two weeks birding with you and Gini on those wildlife drives. “But granddad you won’t see Mickey if you do that” – doh.

    H L Mencken in 1918:
    “Civilisation grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes. The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed and hence clamorous to be led to safety by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

    • Hopefully, the attractions will be open for your son and his family to enjoy by then. If not, they can accompany us on a search for an actual mouse with the hope it will be captured by a Great Horned Owl and eaten on the spot.

      Not as much fun as seeing Mickey perhaps, but a couple of us would enjoy it so much more!

      In hindsight, Mr. Mencken seems quite prescient.

      Our weather is turning quite warm which we hope will be to the great discomfort of viruses of all nationalities!

  5. Snook

    Thank you for beautiful pix! Keep ’em coming!

  6. Just enjoyed another wonderful tour! Thanks Wally.

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