Afternoon at the Wildlife Refuge

     When I want to get away for an afternoon, Tom (or other family members) and I like to head over to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge specifically to travel the slow, winding seven mile Black Point Wildlife Drive located on the eastern coast of Florida.  It’s about a 45 minute drive from our house.  Nearby is the Haulover Canal waterway which connects the Indian River to Mosquito Lagoon.  Most often we stop there on our way home to visit the Manatee and watch Bottlenose Dolphin swimming slowly in the canal.

    On one particular winter visit to the refuge, the place was heavily populated with not only the usual Florida residents but many wintering species of birds.  We saw large groups of Roseate Spoonbills, you can’t miss their brilliant pink feathers, White Pelicans, bobbing on the surface of the water like small sailboats, and many species of ducks including Northern Shovelers with their unmistakable, large, broad bills.  We spotted charming Belted Kingfishers darting quickly through the scrub, which we commonly see well before we arrive at the refuge, perched on the telephone wires–their unique, large, crested heads easily identifying them.

                                                              Roseate Spoonbill

Belted Kingfisher

     Very common bird sightings at this wildlife refuge are Great Blue Herons, Green Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Snowy Egret, Moorhens, American Bittern, White Ibis, hawks, eagles, gulls, terns, snipes, sandpipers and coots.  Binoculars at the ready, we can zoom in on many of these birds and enjoy them more close up and personal.  Florida is fortunate to be such a haven for so many species.  Most everyone in my family are nature lovers and birders and take the chance whenever we can to watch and listen to see if we can add another bird to our long list of sightings.

     We almost always see alligators sunning themselves on the banks of the narrow canals that line the Black Point Wildlife Drive.  On one recent visit, I did my best impersonation of a baby gator cry and the large alligator we were watching, lifted his head up and looked back at me.  I’ve also had alligators swim towards me, attracted by the sound.  They may have been interested in a meal–they will eat their young.

     Native plants are also abundant there and we often spot the colorful, daisy like, coreopsis or Tickweed, catching our eyes by its bright yellow.

     My sister and her husband have seen the elusive Florida Bobcat several times,  sometimes catching them walking nonchalantly down the middle of the road barely paying attention to them as they follow.  I’ve yet to see one, although I have seen their tracks on the walking trails.

     Near the end of the seven-mile drive is a platform built partially over a canal with a device attached to it pinpointing an enormous Bald Eagle nest in the distance.  The mating pair raises a family there yearly–the nest seemingly growing more expansive as the years go by.  It’s held high in the branches of a huge oak tree.

     Then it’s over to Haulover Canal to see if we can spot a manatee or dolphin.  We usually do.  Last week, when I was laid up with my bad back (and couldn’t go), my brother and sister who are visiting here, went with another sister and a friend to the canal after completing the wildlife drive.  They had the most astonishing encounter with a manatee as they sat on a boat launch.  Our friend had heard that if you splash the water, the manatees may come over to investigate.  They are known to be very curious.  So my sister, Tracy, took up splashing her feet vigorously in the water and a huge, 800 pound manatee (by my brother’s estimation) swam right over to them.  They each took turns “petting” him as he brought his head up out of the water and peered at them.  My other sister began scratching his back, which he obviously seemed to enjoy, and then turned over floating on his back and allowed her to scratch his belly–even holding her hands gently with his front flippers at one point.  I’m getting over there as soon as I can!

     Needless to say, this is one of my most relaxing ways to spend an afternoon.  Immersed in nature–surrounded by Florida’s untouched beauty.

My entry for Monday Morning Writing Prompt–A Day of Refreshment:http://liv2write2day.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/monday-morning-writing-prompt-a-day-of-refreshment/

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24 Comments

  1. What a fascinating trip you gave me. Thank you.

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  2. Thanks for the tour.

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  3. Gayle, this is delightful. Thank you for sharing your visit, insights, and photographs. What a nice start to what will be a long, long day.

    Hugs!

    Jamie

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  4. This is delightful, and makes me want to hop in my car and drive over … Nature’s wonderful treats for us …

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  5. What a wonderful place to go to be renewed. Nature is such a good mother.

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  6. Gayle, the manatee story was amazing! Hope you get over there to scratch their bellies soon. Thank you for a truly refreshing post, as I sit here under threatening storm clouds… Beautiful pictures, too. A breath of actual fresh air… Peace, Amy
    http://sharplittlepencil.wordpress.com/2011/08/23/box-room/

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    • I can’t wait! Woo–how exciting was that! So happy you found this refreshing, Amy. I’m under threatening storm clouds today too.

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  7. Such a lovely place you’ve offered in your words and images Gayle! Next time you go there say hello and from me! Have a sigh of an astonishment thinking of me :)!

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    • Hi Blaga–so happy you found this enjoyable. I will give your regards to the manatees if I should see one–you will be there in my heart. 🙂

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  8. I’ve been there several times. It is a beautiful place. You described it better than one of those travel catalogs. Isn’t it wonderful to be blessed and able to enjoy the wonders of Mother Natures creations?
    You made me want to go again.
    Thanks for the one day vaca ..
    Hugs,
    Izzy xoxox

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    • Yes, it is a blessing. I can get excited over the simplest things in nature. I hope you’ll be able to get over there again someday, Izzy.

      Hugs,
      Gayle xoxo

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  9. Am absolutely drawn to your image of the Spoonbill with all that pink reflection on the water. Superb!

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  10. Gayle , it seems like the perfect sanctuary … an amazing description … I looooove dolphins ! 🙂
    You can check out my contribution at : http://writer-in-transit.co.za/day-refreshment/

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    • Thank you, Michelle. I love dolphins too–especially seeing them in the wild right in front of me. It’s so exciting. And the manatees too!

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  11. What a trip! it must have been a great joy.

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