After the rocket launch last weekend, we continued across the bridge from Titusville over to Merritt Island, where the Kennedy Space Center is located, as well as Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Our first stop was at the Visitor Center, where we picked up a map and chatted with one of the current RV volunteers,
and then took a stroll on the boardwalk behind the building.
We spotted buzzards perched on top of the building, and a small alligator in the pond.
Small alligator trying to stay hidden in the tall grass.
The pond looked beautiful with the fluffy white clouds and blue sky overhead.
The refuge has several hiking trails, and a couple wildlife drives. We decided that it was a beautiful day to take a drive through the refuge with the top down on the Jeep.
We started out on Black Point Wildlife Drive.
The drive is 7 miles long, winding through the marshes and ponds, with lots of opportunities for bird watching.
At our first stop, we spotted a Little Blue Heron, and a Snowy Egret,
as well as a fairly big alligator.
As we got closer to the larger ponds, we started to see many birds flying overhead, including this cormorant,
and I caught a very quick glimpse of this pair of roseate spoonbills.
There was an small parking area between two large ponds, so we parked the Jeep and took a short walk through the marsh to see what we could find.
There were lots of ducks in the ponds,
including a large number of these little black birds with short white beaks. I looked them up, and found out that they are American Coots.
I also spotted this colorful bird, which at first I thought might be a Tri-Color Heron, but after looking it up, it looks more like a Reddish Egret.
Another pair of Roseate Spoonbills flew over us, but I still couldn’t find them in the pond! I was very anxious to get a picture, because in all our time in Florida, I’ve never seen one!
We got back in the Jeep and continued on . . . and then I spotted them!
There were a group of Roseate Spoonbills and Wood Storks perched in the mangroves . . . we stopped and I zoomed in to get a better view. With the roof off, I could stand on the seat and get a nice view!
Several were flying around, and I got a couple of great shots!
They are such pretty birds – I love the pink color!
There was also a Great Egret looking for food in the pond, a little closer to the Jeep.
Once I had my fill of the Spoonbills, we continued on . . . and in another area of the marsh there was a large group of Egrets and Spoonbills gathering, and in the middle of them, a couple of wild hogs.
The birds didn’t seem to be bothered by the hogs at all. Another spoonbill . .
and another small alligator!
The final area of the wildlife drive took us away from the marshes, and through an area of pine scrub. We were on the lookout for Bald Eagles, but didn’t spot any.
The next wildlife drive ran parallel to the Atlantic Coast, along the edge of the Indian River. We didn’t spot much wildlife along this drive, so it wasn’t nearly as interesting, but it did bring us out to the coast and at the end we just took a left turn and we were entering the Cape Canaveral National Seashore.
Coming off the wildlife drive, we were actually already inside the National Seashore, and didn’t drive through the entrance gate (we saw it on the way out) . . . so that might be a little loophole for getting to the beach without an entrance fee . . . although technically you’re supposed to pay the entrance fee at the beginning of the wildlife drive, too. Didn’t really matter for us – we have our annual pass anyway.
The national seashore encompasses 24 miles of coastline, with a dozen or so parking areas and walkways over the dunes to the beach.
Lots of open beach!
It looks like a nice quiet place to enjoy some sun, sand and water . . . I’m sure we’ll be back!