Merritt Island NWR > February 2011
Archive Index Michael W. Masters
grayfox65@cox.net

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Merritt Island NWR is a huge, spread-out affair, as the refuge map makes clear.  One has to be prepared for a lot of driving.  The main roads, from which various wildlife loops and trails spin off, form a triangle:  the entrance road is Route 406, which branches to Route 402, and both eventually intersect Route 3 at the far end, near the Atlantic Ocean -- the road that leads to the NASA Cape Canaveral launch facility.  While we were there in February, 2011 prospects were only average.  Black Point Wildlife Drive is probably the most popular since it features many pools along the early part of its length.  On this trip a number of good images were obtained, but perhaps not as many as hoped.

Other less traveled paths yielded good images at times.  Bio Lab Road, which runs along the beach, was mostly a low productivity affair, but near the end lies a long pond lit by the morning sun.  This provided some great swan and great blue heron images one morning.  As Bio Lab Road returns to Route 3 it passes a water channel and boat launch area.  By chance one morning a roseate spoonbill and a young wood stork posed for some excellent images -- until a vehicle came along and flushed the wood stork away.

There is a Florida scrub jay trail off Route 3 near the beach, and we tried several times to coax the jays from hiding, unfortunately without success.

Overall, Merritt Island NWR is worth a winter visit, although the driving involved relative to payoff can be a bit daunting, depending on what happens to be present at time of visit.  Perhaps the best inducement to visit Merritt is the close proximity of Viera Wetlands, AKA the South Central Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, 30 miles down the road and a bit north of Melbourne.  One can pick a place to stay nearby and do both for several days without having to pack up and move repeatedly.

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