Merritt Island is located due east of Orlando, and south of Daytona Beach, near Titusville, Florida. Unlike most other federal facilities, most of the trails and roads into the refuge are open, though the Merritt Island NWR Visitor Center is closed.
After researching the web for about a place to go birding near Orlando, I found information about the refuge, I drove there and discovered that the seven mile Black Point Wildlife Drive was open to the public. Woohoo! The few people that were there stayed in their cars while transiting the Wildlife Drive, so everybody was maintaining their social distancing.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge from Black Point Wildlife Drive. The refuge is characterized by a maze of shallow, interconnected waterways, channels, and large ponds. The weather was hot(mid 80’s-low 90’s) and humid, but with frequent, comforting light winds blowing from the west.
My first visit to the area was a scouting mission to see what birding/photography opportunities existed on the refuge and how much time would be required of those opportunities.
The most abundant form of wildlife was this genus(Pieris) butterfly with white front wings and an off white/yellowish back wings. These friendly butterflies let me get within just a few inches before fluttering away.
One of the first birds to appear were Forsters Terns(Sterna forsteri), a beautiful , mostly white, delicate flyer in nonbreeding plumage.
This individual spotted something in the water, stopped midair………..
and hovered, to get a fix on whatever it was that got its attention.
Next, it plunged into the water and attempted to catch a fish. It’s prey had other ideas about its future.
Common Buckeye(Junonia coenia) here in Florida flies year round.
Common Moorhen(Galinula cloropus) in breeding attire. *In one 4-year study, researchers found that 40% of nests were parasitized, and that 13% of all eggs were laid by females in nests that were not their own. *Wikipedia
Eastern Kingbird(Tyrannus tyrannus). Originally described by Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist.
The ubiquitous American Alligator(Alligator mississippiensis) with its subtile Mona Lisa smile, reflected in the turbid waters of Merritt Island.
Four-spotted Pennant Dragonfly(Brachymesia gravida), swaying in the breeze.
Gulf Fritillary(Agraulis vanillae), a long-wing common from South America to the Great Lakes.
Anhinga(Anhinga anhinga). If Cher were a bird, she would be an Anhinga.
Am I right?
Another view of a male Anhinga in breeding plumage.
Female Anhinga, craning her neck to get a better view of me. They are also called snake birds.
Juvenile American Gator floating on the surface of the water waiting for something to happen, protein-wise.
Baby Kildeer(Charadrius vociferus) with its proportionately behemoth legs.
Three Killdeer chicks: their mother was nearby, trying to lure me away from her babies.
Male Boat-tailed Grackle(Quiscalus mexicanus) vocalizing on Red Mangrove(Rhizophora mangle).
Florida Duck(Anas fulvigula fulvigula), a subspecies of the Mottled Duck(Anas fulvigula). Both are closely related to Mallards(Anas platyrhynchos).
Prickly Pear Cactus blossum(Opuntia humifusa) with pollinating, hovering Pieris butterfly.
Perching Osprey(Pandion haliaetus) rests, thinking about something protein-wise.
Osprey takes to wing when I got too close for its comfort.
Pieris Spp. Butterfly on daisy Spp blossom.
Reddish Egret(Egretta rufescens). The reddish egret is considered one of the most active herons, and is often seen on the move. It stalks its prey visually in shallow water far more actively than other herons and egrets, frequently running energetically and using the shadow of its wings to reduce glare on the water once it is in position to spear a fish; the result is a fascinating dance. Wikipedia
Seashore Mallow(Kosteletzkya pentacarpos)
Loggerhead Shrike(Lanius ludovicianus).
Roseate Spoonbill(Platalea ajaja).
Roseate Spoonbill on the wing.
Roseate Spoonbill on the wing.
Tricolored Heron(Egretta tricolor).
Tricolored Heron on the wing.
White Spoonbill(Eudocimus albus).
White Ibis, Tricolored Heron.
Flock of White Ibis in flight.