Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Birds, et al

Jodi:  On our second trip to the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge we couldn’t believe all of the activity we saw!  At least four different types of birds in one shot and this is only the first turn along the drive.

 

Wading birds

Wading birds

David:  Great and snowy egrets, white ibis and a couple of wood storks for good measure.  This place was living up to its reputation as a birders’ paradise and we were just getting started!

J:   Sneaking up on a little breakfast

Great egret on the prowl

Great egret on the prowl

J:  Gotcha!

Great egret going for prey

Great egret going for prey

J:  Heads up!  Coming in for a landing!

Wood stork

Wood stork

J:  When I mentioned a lot of activity… I meant A LOT of ACTIVITY!  I couldn’t even venture a guess at how many birds there might be in this one shot.

Scores of water fowl

A flotilla of water fowl

D:  Our timing for this trip was, and many times is, pure luck…basically going when schedules allowed.  Sure is nice when things work out as they did on this day!

J:  This little guy/gal was being anti-social hanging out all by itself with a lonely butterfly.

Loggerhead shrike

Loggerhead shrike

D:  The loggerhead shrike is one cool little bird.  They will perch as this one is doing here and look around for prey items like small rodents, lizards, birds and insects.  If caught, the prey item may be impaled on a thorn or barbed wire, or stuffed into a small space for consumption later.  I’ve seen many of the “impalees” on barbed wire over the years.

J:  To date this is the closest I have been able to get to a Bald Eagle with a camera.  Not to worry… I’ll keep at it until I can get a much closer view for you.

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

J:  I’m a gal that loves pink… so these Roseate Spoonbills were an extra special treat for me.

Roseate spoonbills

Roseate spoonbills

Roseate spoonbills in flight

Roseate spoonbills in flight

D:  This roseate spoonbill sighting was a first for me outside of a zoo or other captivity.  I look forward to these opportunities to see a species in the “wild” for the first time!

J:  You’ll find at least one picture of ‘Hef’ in almost all of our posts about MIWR because he is just plain massive.  He hangs out, tans, and smiles at the cameras.  (For those of you who don’t remember, I took to calling this big guy ‘Hef’ because he seems to be quite the lady’s man…always surrounded by what we can only guess is his ‘harem.’)  What a Rock Star!

American alligator nicknamed 'Hef'

American alligator nicknamed ‘Hef’

D:  Tans?  Rock star?  Impressive for sure, but…

J:  I know it’s hard to see scale in these photos but this little lady is quite small compared to the massive ‘Hef’ above.

American alligator

American alligator

D:  We are, of course, making some assumptions as to the sex and role of these smaller individuals in the vicinity of ‘Hef’, but what the heck!

J:  We left the Wildlife Drive and decided to venture off in another direction to Haulover Canal.

Brown Pelicans near drawbridge over Haulover Canal

Brown Pelicans near drawbridge over Haulover Canal

J:  As you may already know David has a boat so we frequently check out new ramps for future boating adventures.  So we parked in the lot and while he was poking around in the car, I walked across the road to a stand of pine trees around the ramp.  I could hear something ‘breathing’….LOUD!  In broad daylight I was beginning to think the pine trees were haunted.  David walked over to ask what I saw and I about jumped out of my skin.  He asked if I saw the manatee right there in the water.  Uhhhh… NOPE.  Now didn’t I feel silly??!!

D:  With barely more than its nostrils showing, this manatee was right in front of Jodi.  It may have been the acoustics within the stand of pines, but the breathing sound was quite loud and it was hard to pinpoint a source…until she looked about ten feet in front of her!  Mystery solved!

J:  Enter the ‘heavy breather’ in question….

Manatee - nostrils anyway

Manatee – nostrils anyway

J:  From your vantage point this is a bird dropping a fish.  From mine this is the missed photo that should have gone viral.  Wait until you read my ‘one that got away’ story.  David and I were watching the aforementioned manatee when we saw a dolphin swimming around.  Aww cute….uh-huh.  Well all of a sudden the cute, sweet dolphin created his own bow wake, jumped up out of the water ala theme parkish and tried to steal that fish right out of the osprey’s talons.  One of the craziest things either one of us had ever seen.

Bird dropping fish

Bird dropping fish

D:  Another first!  Dolphin leaps almost full length out of the water toward unsuspecting bird carrying fish.  Bird drops fish.  Dolphin gets free meal (assumed).  Crazy!

J:  And then it was gone.

Gone dolphin

Gone dolphin

J:  Oh look there goes the crazy dolphin again.  Now what is it doing Dave?

Dolphin dorsal fin

Dolphin dorsal fin

J:  Swimming around and around in circles…erratically.  What is up with this thing?

Dolphin(s)?

Dolphin(s)?

D:  And get this…it seemed to be breathing hard almost like panting.

J:  It was creating it’s own whirlpool effect.  What?  Upon closer inspection we noted that there were two different dorsal fins.  So what makes a dolphin crazy?  A dolphin of the opposite sex makes a dolphin crazy!!!

Dolphin "whirlpool"

Dolphin “whirlpool”

D:  Again, some assumptions were made…

J:  Manatee 101.  How to spot one:  they leave ‘footprints’ and trails in the water.  Follow them and you’re sure to see one.

Manatee "trail"

Manatee “trail”

D:  With the boat launching basin and the manatee overlook on the other side of the canal and drawbridge, The Haulover Canal area seems a fairly reliable location for manatee viewing.  Might see some dolphin antics, as well.

J:  As if all of that wasn’t enough activity for one day, we decided to check out this short trail in the area.  Remember the comments about something big, and running at you from our Geneva trip?  As we casually walked along still talking about all that we had seen earlier, we noticed that there was something walking next to us in the bushes next to the trail.  Whatever it was it sounded BIG!  When I embarked upon this journey of blogging with David, I agreed not to get nervous until he was nervous.  So far, I’ve only let out one scream while we’ve been out and about together.   I have to admit this time I wasn’t sure whether to take pictures or get ready to run, but I held steady with the camera only to hear whatever it was move away in another direction.  I’m not sure whether I should have been relieved or shattered that I missed another photo op.

Scrub Ridge Trail

Scrub Ridge Trail

D:  This “close encounter” happened on the Scrub Ridge Trail.  Hog?… deer?…We’ll never know for sure, but whatever it was seemed to come running in from a distance through the thick brush and stop just before breaking out onto the trail where we stood.  It paced us for a while before moving away.  While I like encountering wildlife, I’d rather not surprise it or have it surprise me.  Almost had both this time!

J:  So we left the trail and moved off to one final spot.  This was yet another boat ramp out to the Mosquito Lagoon.  Cue the large hog walking right in front of the car as I checked my Facebook page on my phone.  Missed it again.  It was probably one of his buddies that was sizing us up on the trail earlier.

D:  Could be.  There was quite a bit of hog damage (rooting) on both sides of the access road to the boat ramp and on the open, grassy area leading to the ramp.

J:  From the boat ramp I saw this white pelican, something most people don’t see every day.  In fact I thought it was a fake until it flew away.

White Pelican

White Pelican

D:  Nice ending to an interesting day!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

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About David Hansen

A bunny- and tree- hugging biology-type with an appreciation for what nature has to offer.

2 responses to “Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge – Birds, et al”

  1. Jean Hansen says :

    Hey Dave and Jodi, I always enjoy reading about your latest adventure! I most enjoyed reading about the dolphin that “picked the talons” of the flying bird! That’s something I’ve never seen! Dolphins don’t often come very far out of the water! Good job on capturing a picture of that! Quick finger!

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