Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – The Adventures Begin

Entrance Signage

Entrance Signage

Jodi:  Anyone who knows me is very aware that I would rather be at a beach than anywhere else on the planet.  I can honestly say that the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge [MINWR] is currently ranking second.  I think I could take the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive every day and see something new.  It’s the type of place where anyone can go regardless of age and see the beauty that Florida has to offer.

David:  A very interesting place which owes, at least, some of its biological diversity to efforts to combat the salt marsh mosquito.  The various impoundments and water control practices have created areas where fresh and salt/brackish waters and wetlands are in close proximity.  This “best of both worlds” scenario allows for a host of species to exist in roughly the same place as we will see.

J:  Here’s David planning our route.  He makes all of our travel plans and picks the trails we visit.

D:  I…suggest

Checking out route options

Checking out route options

J:  This photo is an enlargement of the one above.  If you look closely you will see the Black Point Wildlife Drive [BPWD] is one of many parts of the area just below the route 406 circle in the photo. The BPWD is known for bird-watching.  It was engineered to be a safe haven for Florida’s birds and wildlife along with species aplenty that make it a stopover on their annual commutes north and southbound.

A closer look

A closer look

J:  You can view the beauty either from the air-conditioned comfort of your car on the one-way circle drive, or from one of several hiking trails.

D:  There are a number of areas where you can pull off the main drag and park.  These areas are numbered and most have interpretive signage at a minimum.  We were parked at one of these areas when I was approached by a woman who, with a British accent, asked if I had seen anything “interesting”.  (Kind of a loaded question when she would have no idea of what I found “interesting”.)   I told her that I had seen what appeared to be game trails through the vegetation and some small fish in one of the numerous water-filled depressions.  She smiled, thanked me and turned to head back to her vehicle and traveling companion.  I could hear her say, somewhat dejectedly, “Only some fish” to her companion as she was getting back in the vehicle.   I kind of felt like the bearer of some bad news to someone who was obviously hoping for an otter or bobcat sighting.   Oh well…

Main road with pull-off just ahead

Main road with pull-off just ahead on left

J:  If you park in one of several parking areas and walk a bit, you may even see things like these.

DSC_0711

Freshwater canal along main road with numerous small fish

D:  If the woman with the British accent had asked me the same question further along the trail, I could have told her about the birds!

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Tri-colored Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

American Coot

American Coot

Mirror...mirror

Mirror…mirror – great egret and reflection

Little Blue Heron

Little Blue Heron

J:  Do you see the Anhinga drying its wings?

Anhinga

Anhinga

J:  There are even tips for wildlife viewing as you can see in the photo.  Another good tip:  If you see someone with a camera to their face, don’t tap them on the shoulder and ask them, “What do you see?”  Chances are, if you look in the direction the lens is pointed, you will see “it.”  In my case, I don’t necessarily know what “it” is until I ask David.  I just know “it” will make a pretty picture.

Helpful Instructional Signage

Helpful Instructional Signage

D:  Of course, it’s not just the birds or the elusive bobcat or otter.  Take the time to look closely and a number of different species, plant and animal, can be observed.

J:  Look closely…do you see at least 6 crabs?

DSC_0742

Sand Fiddler Crabs

J:  This guy (or gal) was the size of a dinner plate!

Blue Crab

Blue Crab

J:  And then there was “Hef.”

American Alligator we nicknamed 'Hef'

American Alligator we nicknamed “Hef”

J:  Unfortunately, this picture just does not do this smiling guy justice.  He is easily 11-12 ft in length.  Seriously, no exaggerations needed!  By his sheer size alone you know he’s a Bull gator.  And I don’t mean one of those folks in the suites at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. We took to calling him “Hef” after the Playboy magazine mogul.  There just seemed to be no shortage of ‘lady gators’ in his vicinity.

D:  This was one big alligator!

J:  For us the drive through BPWD took several hours, but most people could make the seven mile round trip drive in much less time.  But, why rush?

D:  What Jodi said!  More to come…

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