Sunday, February 21, 2010

Road Trip Day 4

Wow, Florida is chocked full of wildlife, especially birds. After oversleeping Saturday morning I drove the 2 hours to Merritt Island NWR and spent most of the day there. The place was hopping and sometimes I was so caught up with watching the birds that I was forgetting that my primary reason for being here was to photograph the birds. I spent the last hours of the day at Viera Wetlands, another birding hotspot down near Melbourne. To my delight, there was a pair of Crest Caracaras nesting in the area AND a pair of Sandhill Cranes among all of the other species. I was able to photograph both the Caracara and the Cranes but only from a distance.

Then we got word that it was raining in California and therefore the shuttle was coming to Canaveral to land and .... the entire Merritt Island NWR and the Canaveral National Seashore were closed down to the public. With no Sunday access to Merritt Island I proceeded to the Orlando area to try the Rookery at the Gatorland and, boy, did I strike paydirt. What an absolutely fantastic place with hundreds of nesting and roosting birds: Egrets of every shape and size, Herons also of every ilk, Wood Storks, Ibis, Comorants, Ahhingas, etc., etc., etc. You can purchase a photographer's pass good for a year and gain early entry and late visitation rites or you can pay an extra $5 for a normal day pass which allows you to stay after closing until sunset. This is necessary to view and photograph what can only be described as a spectacle...hundreds of Ibis and other species flying in at sunset to roost. I will definitely be back here again and again. Ran into Art Morris (Birds as Art) there today. He was also mesmerized by the place.

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