Florida is the Life
By: Pat Coate
We had a great time visiting my parents in Florida for a few days over my husband’s winter break. It was nice to temporarily trade in the heavy coats and boots for the summer wardrobe appropriate for the 70+ degree days (and it was nice to know that the summer wardrobe still fits).
We spent our first afternoon exploring Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge located next to the Kennedy Space Center. It is a birders dream with over 140,000 acres comprising a wide range of habitats including coastal dunes, saltwater marshes and freshwater impoundments. There is a nice visitors center with a friendly staff and miles of wildlife drives and hiking trails. We saw only a small fraction of the refuge including the visitor center, the manatee observation deck and the Bio Lab Road driving trail.
Despite being told by the ranger at the visitor center that birding was slow – between seasons – we saw lots of activity and even picked up several life birds. The life birds were Black Skimmer, Glossy Ibis and Reddish Egret.
Merritt Island NWR must be a truly amazing place during peak seasons and it is an area I would love to get back to some day.
It was fun to see and watch the behavior of these very unique birds. They darted about in a tight flock, are quite colorful, and have a very unusual body form. Black Skimmers are the only birds whose lower bill is longer than the upper bill (most easily seen in top photo, center-right bird).
During the trip, we saw both the Glossy and the White Ibis. The White Ibis was much more common (ratio of 20-to-1).
Most egrets are white while herons are dark, predominately bluish-grey or green. I wondered why this bird is called a Reddish Egret instead of a Reddish Heron and learned that it comes in a white morph. This may help explain the name… but the Great Blue Heron also comes in a white morph and it is called a heron not an egret…
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Three life birds without me?! : ) Beautiful photos as always! Maybe we can get there together one day during the busy season.
10 March 2011 at 7:54 am
Lynda, you would love Merritt Island – yes let’s plan a trip. But for the short term, maybe Cape May this spring?
Karen, it didn’t do the full dance but did run around a bit. My husband and mother saw it catch some lunch but I was watching a black vulture – a rare bird for a WNY’er.
10 March 2011 at 11:25 am
Three life birds is great! And they were 3 good ones! Did the Reddish Egret do it’s little dance for you?
10 March 2011 at 9:18 am
Pat, amazing photos and wonderful job as you always do with these! Thanks again for being part of the team!
10 March 2011 at 4:12 pm