I stopped by Merritt Island NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) this weekend for the first time in well over a year. Activity has been sparse at the refuge over the last year, so I didn’t renew my pass and spent my days shooting at other areas. But I’m glad that I spent the morning there as there was just enough activity to make the visit interesting. It’s nice to have a such a high quality refuge so close to home.
Any trip to Merritt Island NWR has to include a stop at Parrish Park for sunrise. I have photographed some great sunrises from under the Max Brewer bridge and this morning was no different. Click the images to view larger.
I setup my iPhone to do a time-lapse of the sunrise. I also had my GoPro setup to do a time-lapse. Both videos came out pretty good, but I think the iPhone video came out a little nicer than the GoPro did.
While at Parrish Park, I joined a bunch of other birders and photographers who were out looking for the Long-tailed Duck. We found him, but he was a long way away and on the wrong side of the bridge for photos. Well, at least for any decent photos.
A Coopers Hawk swooped in under the bridge and posed for a few photos. Certainly not the kind of environment that I would really want, but it was nice to get a couple of images in.
The next stop was a trip through the BlackPoint Wildlife Drive in the refuge itself. The first opportunity was a pair of American Avocets that were somewhat cooperative.
While shooting the avocets, a Tricolored Heron came in. He was so close I could only get a head shot.
A hundred yards later we came upon a small flock of Forster’s Terns diving into a very small puddle and catching some fish that were trapped in the pond. They had a very high success rate with each dive. I guess it was like shooting fish in a barrel. This tern’s catch is still flopping around in his beak.
Along the back side of the wildlife drive a flock of Dunlin came through. I ran out of fingers and toes to count them.
There were plenty of ducks on the back side of the wildlife drive, but the light is better for photography back there in the afternoon. So we motored along until we got to the Cruikshank trail. There we found a small group of American Widgeons that were quite cooperative.
After completing the wildlife drive, we headed back to Parrish Park hoping to find the Long-tailed Duck in better light. By then the winds had picked up and the water was quite choppy. We didn’t find the duck, but we did see some Common Loons and a pair of Horned Grebes that were close by. Getting a good photo of these two was quite challenging as they were diving for their lunch, then bobbing up and down on the choppy waves when they surfaced again. It was tough to find them in-between the waves, but a little patience paid off. I love their red eyes.
When the card in my camera was full, it was time to pack it in and head back home for some lunch. It was a fun morning and I think I’ll be back over to Merritt Island NWR again in the next couple of weeks.