Wading Birds along Black Point Wildlife Drive at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida
March 24, 2015
I spent a week in Florida for the World Digiscopers Meeting and Space Coast Birding Festival back in January. I was busy with the digiscopers meeting most of the week, but I managed to carve out some time to enjoy the birds at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. One part of the refuge I wanted to visit was Black Point Wildlife Drive. Prior to my outing, I heard nothing but good things about the drive as it allegedly provided some of the best photo opportunities near Titusville.
The afternoon was apparently the best time to bird the drive, but I only had a few hours in the morning, so I went there anyway. Lighting was tough on the passenger side of the drive, but the driver’s side was perfect. I worked the entire length (~7 miles) of the drive looking at various dabbling duck species including American Widgeon, Northern Shoveler, Blue- and Green-winged Teal, and Gadwall. Ibis, both White and Glossy, were plentiful as were American Coots. Shorebirds were hard to come by, but I managed four species including American Avocet, Killdeer, Greater Yellowlegs, and Dunlin. In addition, I found this Reddish Egret foraging close to the road.
I really wanted to see and photograph wading birds in flight. Fortunately, I found a spot where the birds were flying in from the marsh to forage. Luckily, the birds were landing in a ditch adjacent to the road and the light was to my back. I was able to use the car as a blind, so the birds didn’t even know I was there. Great Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, and White Ibis were all flying in to forage. It was a magical experience as numerous individuals of all species were full-frame in my Celestron Granite 8x42 Binoculars.
I enjoyed the head-on show of oncoming waders for about fifteen minutes. I was running out of time, so I quickly drove the rest of Black Point. Fortunately, I found two Little Blue Herons next to each other. It was a cool experience as I’ve never seen an adult and immature side-by-side. Here, the adult is the all blue bird and the immature is the all white bird.
Black Point Wildlife Drive is the place to go to see, study, and photograph wading birds at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Early morning or late evening is best, but I’m sure that any time you can spare to spend there will be valuable and completely worthwhile.