Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is located next to Kennedy Space Center on the Florida’s east coast. This land was purchased as part of the space center but was left undeveloped and is now managed by the US Dept of the Interior. You can see some of the launch sites and the large vehicle assembly building from the park. The area is made up of a variety of typical Florida landscapes,
wetlands, marshes, scrub & beaches. Hunting and fishing is allowed in certain areas. The most popular area for visitors, birders & photographers is Black Point Drive.
This is a 7 mile one way road that winds through the wetlands scrub of the area. There are numerous pull offs where your can park and look out over the landscape. During the winter and spring months my favorite thing to do is to arrive right at sunrise and drive around looking for the birds that frequent the area to feed. I often stay in my vehicle and shoot right from the window. Most of the birds are used to the vehicles but will fly away if you get out and walk around.
If the birds are busy searching for food you can usually get out and use a tripod to shoot. Sometimes there are large gatherings of multiple species of wading birds together such as White Ibis, Snowy Egrets, Reddish Egrets, Glossy Ibis, Great Egrets, Blue Herons, Tri-Color Herons and Roseate Spoonbills. These gatherings are very interesting to watch for the feeding behavior and the interactions between the birds but they are a challenge to photograph since they are usually pretty close together!
This is also a very popular winter stopover for a number of duck species. I have been in the refuge when there were literally thousands of ducks in the various lakes and ponds. That is always a wonderful sight to see. It is also a challenge to photograph and to identify the species.
We have often seen other shorebirds, such as terns and seagulls along the drive, as well.
Be sure to bring a bird book like “The Sibley Guide to Birds” with you so you can identify the species you see. I have also seen manatees, otters, raccoons, butterflies, many song birds and raptors in the area.
The landscape also makes for some great photos!
They have a visitor center with displays and info about the refuge. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is a must see if you are in Central Florida.
That is all for now!