Category Archives: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

A Green Heron calling a mate

This one minute video I published on Youtube shows a green Heron calling a mate on The Meritt island National Wildlife Refuge. It’s really pretty cool if you are a birdwatcher. Click HERE. Do it. It’s only a minute long. 🙂

Advertisements

Scrub-Jay lotto…

I wanted to go to The North Brevard Strawberry Festival. Of course the weekend weather plummeted, turning cold and rainy, Johnny wasn’t too interested in going to the festival. He knew he would soon reap the benefits of strawberry preserves that I had intended on canning. While the Doral Golf tournament was on, he could stay cozy and not deal with traffic and people. Eden and utopia are closely matched in this scenario.

I decided that since I had already planned on going to the festival and now changed my mind, I still wanted to get out. There is a tiny road I see all the time, but I’ve never been down there. A sign says it’s Scrub Ridge Trail. Since it’s a side road within The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, I figured it had somethin to do with Scrub-Jays.

A cool little bird, it is THE ONLY bird endemic to Florida. This excerpt came from The Cornell Lab of Ornithology;

“A species that today numbers fewer than 6,000 individuals in the wild and that exists nowhere in the world outside of Florida. In a state whose human population has nearly quadrupled since 1960, the Florida Scrub-Jay has lost much of its choice scrub habitat to citrus groves and subdivisions.” 

My tangent on destruction of property to accomodate condo developers will come at a later date.

After I read that the hiking trail is only one mile, I knew that I could take my time and maybe see some stuff. What are the odds of me finding a Scrub-Jay in an area I don’t know?  Nil quickly came to mind. But I didn’t care. It was better than bein hemmed up in the apartment all day. Johnny decided if there wouldn’t be traffic and old ladies in funny hats, he was in for a hike.

15 minutes later, I was hopping out of the truck, with camera gear and Johnny in tow. There were two paths to pick from, and we chose the north path.

The first thing I noticed was there had been a recent controlled burn. Very recent.

 CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE 🙂

IMG_8273c

The refuge has controlled burns often; I understand the concept to a point, but I can’t help but think it displaces wildlife and that’s where my confusion lies. But, that too is another suject for another day,

My heart sank when I saw the burnt palmettos. That, with the cold and rainy day made me think I shoulda stayed home and watched golf. We walked the back trail and saw nothing.  Egrets and ‘spoonbills farrrrrrrrr away, a couple of gator slides, and a 9 Banded Armadillo.

IMG_8311

We went as far as we could before the ground turned to marsh. The rain wasn’t helpin. We circled back and at the fork, took the high road in. I silently hoped I made the right choice. I thought this had to lead to the truck, but if it didn’t, it would be fine. The marl was nice to walk on, and it was dry. About a 1/4 mile. Nothin. Then a Scrub-Jay appeared. On the right,

IMG_8515c

IMG_8520c

Then another. With breakfast even. BONUS!

Those two flew off to dine, and another came to the bush at my shoulder. Happy to pose for me, I shot a few images

Florida Scrub Jay.

I can’t believe our luck!  The only thing that topped that was I had picked the right road to get us back to the truck!  WINNING!!! What a great day!

Central Florida’s Migatory First Comers are Showing Up

I found some this week.  Yay!!!!! This time of year, when the temperatures are starting to dip, they begin to appear. For the next month or so, they will be getting their winter homes in order. Hopefully, I will find a nesting family to share with you. But this will have to do for now. 🙂    Roseate Spoonbills are one of my favorites. We have a few residents that buck the “law” and live here year around, but the majority fly in for the holidays. Their diet consist’s of fish, bugs, crawdads, crabs, whatever they find in the grass that lines the flats they wade in. Unlike the noisy Herons and Egrets, they are content to stay to themselves and don’t cause too much trouble.

Roseate Spoonbills

One of the great things about living in Florida is of course the weather. The traveling Avian know it too, and return every year around this time; probaby where the term “Snow Birds” came from. Thank God they just fly in, and don’t clutter up the local roads, driving at a snail’s pace looking for orange trees. But that’s another rant. 🙂

Everyone thinks we spend every day at the beach or Disney World and every night, we party like animals and live a carefree lifestyle.  HA!  What they don’t seem to know is that we have a plethora of  the most beautiful and peaceful backwoods, bordered by wetlands, salt marshes, brackish and “nursery” estuaries. Each play a vital role in the survival of all the “Feather’s and Fins” that call on this little speck of land to spend the winter months and raise the next generation…….. I have to be honest and quietly admit I’m kinda glad in a way. Less people out on my precious refuge.   🙂

Sunset

I found some Coot  huddled up this week too. Another sign that the coming days will be short and the temps will mandate sweat shirts and jackets. Looks like it’s going to be crowded this year.  Hope I get some nice images.

Coot

Surf Rods are going into hibernation…………

It saddened me as I put the surf rods in the storage closet. This summer, we did well in our endevour to spend every weekend surf fishing at the beach,greeting the sunrise with excitement, knowing in the next five or six hours, we would be cleaning fresh Whiting, Croaker, or whatever we were lucky enough to catch.

How can you sleep when you know this is how you get to start your day?
How can you sleep when you know this is how you get to start your day?

The sound of the water, the feeling of freedom, as you look past the horizon. The wonder of the expanse above, while wondering what is below.

That’s what my mind saw and felt today, as the memories of the last few months replayed themselves and I realized we wouldn’t be heading back until next spring. Living on the coast, we have the ocean, salt water rivers, and fresh water lakes and river. Everything here is seasonal, and although I know when we leave one body of water, we are heading to another one, the beach is my favorite.

Isn’t it funny that you only remember the good stuff? Beach fishing is tough. Imagine a beach cart, loaded with three 15 foot rods, a cooler full of ice, umbrella, food cooler, cast net, tackle, 12 foot “Baby Rod” (That’s what Johnny calls mine. That Ande is tough tho!), sand flea rake…. I know I’m forgetting stuff..  Oh yeah. My camera. My camera goes everywhere.

Takes you from the parking lot to utopia.
Takes you from the parking lot to utopia.

The first thing you see when you get to the beach is the cross walk. Unload the cart off the truck and pull it up the walk. It probably weighs 65-70 pounds. Adrenaline usually helps, because you know in 10 minutes, rods will be in the water. Over the walk, and into the unforgiving sand. That’s the hard part. The sand. But it’s worth it. Walk until he says stop, which is always too far from where we started. And then out of no where, he says “Here.” And now we are ready to officially start our morning. As the sky shows the promise of a sunrise, we are working.

Johnny gets busy putting the rod holders in the sand, somehow spaced perfectly. I always take the one on the left, because I’m left-handed, and I like the feeling of space. Plus, he says I’m not afraid to shank the 12′ Ande’ now and then, so I try to stay out of his way. While he’s still putting the holders in place, I go behind him and bait and cast my rod. On a good day, he won’t get done before I get the first fish. Whiting usually. Great eating. Croakers were pounding us for a solid three weeks, and I have to say, they are the sweetest…..

When the rods start going off, it’s not fun anymore. Its focus, speed, and agility. Penn Squidders are his reel of choice, and all three of his 15 foot Ugly Sticks are equipped the same. No line levelers make me work even harder, and I always curse while he is yelling, “Get the rod! It’s a Pompano! Reel! Reel! Reel!” When I bring in a whiting, catfish. or shark, he is just grinning. He doesn’t care what comes in, he just “Loves to see the rod bend.”   It can be bedlam for about an hour. Four rods, oftentimes two going off at the same time.

When I think I can’t run anymore, and my arms are tired, they quit biting. Stop. Nothing. Fifteen minutes go by. I check the bait. Re-cast. And then I realize we are done for a while.  Finally I get to sit and enjoy some coffee. Put the umbrella up over the cooler to keep the ice as long as possible. And just relax.

I realize why tourists come here. The sand feels good under my feet. The wind is coming off the water, and the sun is high enough to put my sun glasses on. The lull of the waves relaxes one to the point of making you think you could stay in this spot forever. The coffee tastes better here. I don’t know what it is, but it’s always the same.

This is when I see who’s around as far as my sentry’s. Those are the birds. When the Ibis show up, we know the sand fleas will be up in an hour. Amazing, but true…… Johnny is deadly with a sand flea rake, and the fish love ‘fleas, so we always have bait. He just has to beat the birds to the bounty sometimes.

They will show us where the bait is. We just have to watch......
They will show us where the bait is. We just have to watch……

Then there are the little birds. The Sanderlings. They find the fleas too. The Gulls and Terns show where the near shore bait is, and the Osprey will show where the schools of fish we want are, as they soar above.

Unbelievable how they can use their beak to deflect the water from their face. Proably one of the many things that make them such great foragers in constant waves
Unbelievable how they can use their beak to deflect the water from their face. probably one of the many things that make them such great foragers in constant waves

Even the little ghost crabs make me smile, as they try to figure out a way to something bigger than them into their hole.

This lil crab will work itself nonstop, trying to drag something to it's hole, while avoiding the overhead threat of birds...........
This lil crab will work itself nonstop, trying to drag something to it’s hole, while avoiding the overhead threat of birds………..

When Daylight Savings Time starts next weekend on the east coast, I will not be happy. Our days at the beach surf fishing are over for the season, and I know that right around the corner, cooler nights precede cold days. Coupled with the shorter days that put the sun to bed around 6 p.m., I already miss summer. The surf rods are sad……………………….