A pre-dawn start had me heading east on a dark and desolate road. This road was to lead me to great things on the Atlantic Ocean. Having never visited a wildlife refuge in Florida before, I was in for quite a birding extravaganza.
Of course, silly me had neglected to pay attention to the weather, nor bothered to have mosquito repellant in the car. But nevertheless, my time in Florida is short, and short of a hurricane, there was no way I wasn’t going to get there.
The morning started completely overcast with winds blowing hard and strong. Large flocks of birds were flying overhead, many unidentifiable for me. At least I did recognize these Brown Pelicans.
The wind was brisk, blowing the feathers practically off of these Royal Terns. It was funny to watch the sanderlings run sideways as the wind nearly toppled them over.
The wind was a bit much for me, so I headed back towards inland. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is an enormous place, and there are so many nooks and crannies to explore. One could spend a month here and still not see every part of the Florida wilderness. Driving down the road, something black with four legs caught my eye. What? Are they dogs?
Nope – there are Wild Pigs that live on the Island. Left by the Spaniards long ago, these feral pigs have lots of babies each year. They are destructive and invasive, but still have their cute curly tails.
Along my way, I saw a pond filled with a wide variety of herons and egrets. Now this is where the mosquito spray would have been handy. A bit of a marshy area, the mosquitoes came out in full force. These mosquitoes were huge! It’s as if these bugs were given steroids. Big suckers they were. But I still managed to dance my way between bug bites to capture some beauties.
But I was far from done with discovering beautiful birds today. Stopping at the visitors center to get some information and a map, I learned that Painted Buntings enjoyed eating at the feeders just out the back. Such stunning birds these are.
And there were more..much more, but I think I’ll restrain myself, and leave you with a Florida alligator. No trip to Florida is complete without one.