Where and Why?
Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge (Merritt) is adjacent to the Canaveral National Seashore on Central Florida’s East Coast and is well known as one of Florida’s premier winter and early spring birding hotspots. Merritt Island bird photography in June, however, is not exactly high on many photographer’s “must visit” list. OK, I confess that I keep a “must visit” list and assume you also keep one. In fact, mine is organized geographically by month and subject. Anyway, Merritt Island was definitely not on my June list until I heard roseate spoonbills were numerous at the Refuge. That is all it took and I was in the car heading south on I 95. As I was driving down, my plans were to photograph roseate spoonbills and possibly a landscape then head home.
So how was my trip?
I am happy to report my expectations were wrong. This trip provided so many opportunities to photograph wading birds that I am heading back in the next couple weeks. Why? There were large numbers of reddish egrets, snowy egrets, green herons, and roseate spoonbills racing around the ponds of Black Point Drive in search of a meal. Photo opportunities were everywhere.
Encounters of the Reddish Kind: (No not Spoonbills)
Upon arriving at Merritt, my first stop was Black Point Drive, which is a 7 mile one way auto tour. Immediately after entering Black Point Drive, a reddish egret welcomed me to the Refuge.
I spent a few minutes photographing this egret before deciding to drive further to locate the spoonbills. Before I could drive 300 feet, I encountered three more reddish egrets and was out photographing egrets again.
Again I drove on begrudgingly in search of the spoonbills only to come upon several more reddish egrets as well as large amounts of snowy egrets.
I can’t begin to tell you how many great photography opportunities I had to pass up to make it to the spoonbills before the light became too harsh.
At the rate I was going, I wondered if I would ever make it to the prime spots for the spoonbills. After several more stops, I located the spoonbills. Upon seeing them, I was struck by their beauty. No matter how many times I see roseate spoonbills, I alway have this reaction to seeing them. Especially when their plumage is that vibrant deep pink and rose color.
Initially, one flock of spoonbills were out in the open, while two closer flocks were gathered in the mangrove vegetation. The open flock were far enough away that I needed to photograph with a 1.4 extender on my 500mm lens. Within a short period of time, a few cooperative spoonbills begin to feed closer to the road and before I knew it, the extended and the 500 lens were packed away. My 100-400mm lens were now perfect and allowed me to follow the birds with easy as they pranced around the pond.
Other Bird Encounters:
Tricolored Herons were also feeding in ponds close to the road along with a large number of snowy egrets.
As I drove to the final portions of Black Point Drive, I came upon several black necked stilts and numerous green herons.
If you live in or happen to be in the Central Florida area, consider a June visit to this wonderful birding treasure.
Mr. Rosy says Goodbye for now