Posts Tagged With: glossy ibis

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – 1

Beginning a trip in darkness stimulates my feelings of anticipation and excitement. What will this day offer? As the morning sky begins to lighten, familiar shapes are mere shadows and it seems as if anything spoken should be in a whisper.

For some reason (deep, dark, repressed, psychological reasons, I’m sure), I have difficulty retrieving detailed memories of some childhood events. (Okay, to be fair, it was a LONNNNNG time ago!) One thing I recall in delicious, granular fashion is fishing. The announcement on Friday that we would be getting up early the next morning to go to Lake Panasoffkee ensured that I would not sleep one minute that night. Hitching up the boat, checking the tackle, pulling out of the driveway in the dark, arriving at the boat ramp before sunrise, a layer of mist on the water.

Some things don’t change much. Gini and I had mentioned more than once during the winter that we need to visit the east coast while migration was still in full swing. Thus, we set our sights on Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge for a day trip. One sleepless night, coming right up.

The actual drive is not all that bad. Yes, we had to negotiate the hazards of the interstate highway through the Orlando/Disney megalopolis. Accomplishing this feat at 5:00 a.m. is much more acceptable than about an hour later. Also, once past the city center, the denser traffic was on the other side, heading west toward waiting jobs. The sky in the east was beginning to glow.

Turning onto Black Point Wildlife Drive resulted in audible sighs from both of us. Tension was released and we felt that moment of comfortable relaxation which being surrounded by the natural world produces. Sounds and sights of birds preparing to survive a new day promised adventure! We were not to be disappointed.

The refuge was established in 1963 as part of the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Consisting of more than 140,000 acres, the area contains coastal dunes, salt and fresh water marshes, scrub, pine flatwoods and hardwood hammocks. Located on the Atlantic Ocean and offering protection from adverse weather makes the refuge a prime target for migrating waterfowl and other bird species. The diverse habitat also is home to a wonderful variety of other flora and fauna.

Gini, as usual, thoughtfully prepared a light breakfast and picnic lunch so we wouldn’t have to interrupt our exploration by having to forage for food in the nearby “civilized” jungle. Munching a sandwich while watching alligators and egrets is highly preferable to clinking plates and noisy diners – in our opinion.

This post covers the first half of the day. After lunch will have to wait until next time.

 

Dawn. Always a special time. Within a vast marsh, even more so.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Ducks and wading birds begin their routine of searching for food. Light fog hugs the surface of the world.

Merritt Island NWR

 

A Green Heron perches atop a mangrove tree, knowing the intricate root system harbors an amazing array of life in the shallow water.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Blue-winged Teal are by far the most numerous duck species within the refuge today. Most of the tens of thousands of feeding ducks remained out of camera range but included: American Widgeon, Gadwall, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Lesser (and possibly Greater) Scaup.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Break(fast) dancing performed by a Tricolored Heron.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Flocks of Glossy Ibis were active throughout the day moving from one area to another.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Killdeer seem to always have something to shout about. Usually, it’s me.

Merritt Island NWR

 

Patience is the key to a meal. Here it’s put into practice by a Little Blue Heron.

 

Merritt Island NWR

 

We saw dozens of Lesser Yellowlegs during the day and a couple of their bigger brothers, the Greater Yellowlegs. This Lesser showed off its namesake.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The feathered breakfast hunters needed to be wary of another breakfast hunter. American Alligator.

Merritt Island NWR

 

The Osprey uses keen eyes and altitude to locate a finny feast in the shallow salt water. This bird disappeared in a huge splash, surfaced with a large fish, struggled to get airborne, but ultimately had to release his catch. I’m familiar with that problem: “Eyes too big for stomach.”

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

Merritt Island NWR

 

Following the example of the ducks, most of the thousands of shorebirds in the refuge today preferred to stay out of range of the camera. A few strayed to within a couple of miles. This Sanderling will maintain its light non-breeding plumage for another couple of months.

Merritt Island NWR

 

 

Our day began in darkness then exploded with light as blue sky and clear water were filled with birds of infinite color and beauty! A delicious picnic, a short rest – time to race the sun and pack each minute with new discoveries!

 

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

 

Additional Information

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Rain Falls, Mainly It’s A Pain

I often joke about how being a meteorologist in Florida has to be the easiest job in the world. No matter what time of year, you just say: “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Collect a paycheck. Repeat.

In our sub-tropical climate, much of the year produces conditions conducive to moisture. Sometimes it rains. A lot. We are currently in the “dry season”. So, naturally, as I glanced at the forecast for the day:  “Fifty-percent chance of rain.” Sigh.

The good news is I planned to only travel about ten minutes from the house, so if I get up and it’s raining, hooray! Back under the covers.

It wasn’t raining.

Lake Parker Park officially opens at 7:00. Sunrise was scheduled (?) for 7:02. Fortunately, I arrived at 6:50 to find a nice welcoming open gate. The sun remained under covers of its own for awhile. When it did peek out from the low clouds, some very nice golden light warmed the shoreline.  The birds don’t care so much about schedules, gates or even the weather. They gotta eat. So there was plenty of activity in the air, on the lake’s surface, in the shallow water, among the reeds and in the trees throughout the park.

Yours truly was thankful for no rain. My outlook on our forecasts is: “Fifty-percent chance of not that much rain.” I’ll take those odds. The morning was mild with only a gentle breeze and a hint of actual coolness to the air. Some trees showed a bit of color and a large flock of Ring-necked Ducks overhead confirmed fall and winter migration is proceeding right on time.

It’s rare that I only spend an hour-and-a-half here, but today I headed home early. When I arrived, Gini was busy threatening some fresh fruit with a very sharp knife. I put the kettle on for coffee. Once the images were processed Gini nodded her approval. We agreed that we continue to be blessed in so many ways.

Hope you enjoy the morning walk. No brolly needed.

 

Sunrise.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress trees turn a rusty color during the winter. (An Anhinga is perched at the extreme left.)

Lake Parker Park

 

A quartet of Double-crested Cormorants greet the day from their overnight roost.

Lake Parker Park

 

An immature Bald Eagle soars over the lake in search of a fishy breakfast.

Lake Parker Park

 

Cypress knees are vertical protrusions above the roots of cypress trees. Their function is not really understood. One theory is they help anchor trees growing in saturated soil. Trees growing in well-drained areas do not develop “knees”.

Lake Parker Park

 

I choose to believe this Wood Stork was yawning. The other option would be he was laughing at me, and I just know that couldn’t be possible.

Lake Parker Park

 

The American Coot is extremely common and is usually passed over when it comes to photo ops. I think they are quite handsome in their black plumage, white bills and red eyes.

Lake Parker Park

 

Across a narrow inlet a small cypress tree is bathed with morning sunlight on its right side and bright yellow flowers cover the ground beneath its branches.

Lake Parker Park

 

In the shallows, a Glossy Ibis probes the soft mud for insects, fish and crustaceans.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park 

An actual autumn leaf! In Florida! Pretty sure it’s a maple species, possibly Florida Maple (Acer saccharum var. floridum) or Red Maple (Acer rubrum).

Lake Parker Park

 

If you go about willy-nilly taking pictures of creatures bathing and preening, expect to receive a nasty glare. Black-crowned Night Heron, disturbed.

Lake Parker Park

Lake Parker Park

Rain in the forecast does not mean it won’t be a beautiful day. At worst, the rain will replenish the watershed, bring relief to dry flora and offer a drink to our thirsty wildlife. Where’s the pain in that?

We hope you enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: