Posts Tagged With: little blue heron

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

Commoner Among Royals

Holidays. Wonderful, family-oriented, food-filled and loving times of the year. Exhausting.

A final mailing of several dozen home-made Christmas cookies and fudge prompted a profound statement from my usually unfazed bride:  “Whew! I’m tired!” I asked her to put that in writing so I could drag it out next year before she began her annual Herculean effort to ensure everyone in North America had a Christmas cookie.

Our nature safaris and birding expeditions proceeded at a significantly reduced pace during this time. Last week we managed to spend a morning riding around with all the windows open to let in cooler-than-normal fresh air. Invigorating! A few stops at local lakes found many common birds which are too often overlooked by “serious” birders and photographers. Thank goodness I’ve never been considered “serious”. 

Along a canal, one of nature’s best hunters, the Great Blue Heron, patiently watches for signs of breakfast.

Lake Parker

 

Subtle shades of purple and blue blend perfectly to give the Little Blue Heron a distinct presence above the wetland.

Lake Parker

 

Normally associated with the coast, a few Caspian Terns have taken up residence around our local area. The large reddish-orange beak, dark head with smudgy forehead (non-breeding plumage) and somewhat dark primaries help identify this largest tern in the world.

Lake Parker

 

It would be hard to imagine Florida without the Osprey. Angler extraordinaire, dazzling master of flight, incredible good looks. (No, not me. I am not a pilot.)

Lake Parker

 

Another species usually found in more coastal areas, the Brown Pelican seems to like our local lakes and wetlands well enough to be a year-round resident.

Lake Parker

 

One of our more colorful citizens is the Purple Gallinule. In the right light, one can detect an amazing variety of hues. Even from a parting shot.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker 

 

The Limpkin is a specialist at locating large apple snails and extracting them from their shells. This one seemed intent on varying her diet and was stalking a grasshopper.

Lake Parker

 

Muddy feet provide a clue where this Tricolored Heron has been scratching up a snack. The brownish bands of feathers match the reeds where this wader likes to hide.

Lake Parker

 

Anhinga. Ancient-looking birds whose nickname of “snake bird” describes this agile swimmer’s habit of moving through the water with just head and neck visible, giving the impression of a snake. It is also known as a “water turkey” because of its overall shape and pattern of its tail feathers. During our short morning outing we counted over 40 of these large, ungainly-looking birds.

At sunrise birds begin leaving the roost to hunt.

Lake Parker

 

Although they perch in trees the approach flight looks uncontrolled.

Lake Parker

Lake Parker

 

It’s breeding season here for the Anhinga and this female is brooding a new batch of snake birds.

Lake Parker

 

As our new year begins, we reflect on the combination of small things in our lives which remind us how blessed we are each day. Not only do we have each other to love, we have what seems a boundless supply of natural treasures just beyond our front door. All of the birds in this post are quite abundant in our local area and, indeed, we take them for granted in our pursuit of something more exotic or “different”. Taking time to really observe our “common” residents and their beauty – I realized it is us who are the commoners in nature. How privileged we felt to be among the truly Royal inhabitants of the planet!

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

Categories: Birds, Florida, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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