Thursday, March 5, 2015

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Canaveral National Seashore

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
Oak Hammock Hike
Yesterday was a bright and sunny 80 degrees so we packed a picnic lunch grabbed the dog and headed out to one of our favorite places in this park of the country.
Merritt Island national Wildlife refuge and the Canaveral National Seashore are two of our countries treasures. We enjoy hiking and birding and swimming here whenever we get to the area.
We made a quick stop at the visitors center to pick up a trail map and then headed for the Oak Hammock Trail.

Oak Hammock is a short trail, about a mile, through Spanish Moss draped live oaks whose long limbs create a canopy of shade. 
We saw many butterflies and swarms of red and green dragonflies. Rascal even startled a tree frog.

Green Tree Frog


Done with Oak Hammock we tackled Palm Hammock a slightly longer, two mile trail, through cabbage palms and ferns. It always makes me smile to see the things we grow in planters up North growing so profusely here. Boston ferns line the trunks of palms and asparagus fern grows out of dead tree trunks. Bromeliads are everywhere.
I especially like all of the air plants that hang onto any surface they can find and get all the nutrients they need from the atmosphere itself.
Rascal got a little ambitious and found a 9 Banded Armadillo rooting in the mud so he and Fred sat on a bench while I completed the walk.  I had hoped to see some feral pigs but none were out hunting at the noon hour.  There were a flock of white Ibis, many fish and more dragonflies to enjoy.

After a short rest and having enjoyed our picnic we continued to the Canaveral National Seashore. We had been there before but mostly on the Atlantic side and the Manatee Viewing area. Yesterday we decided to explore the lagoons.

We were rewarded with the sight of Roseate Spoonbills!  The only other place we have seen them in large numbers was the Everglades.

Roseate Spoonbill
 There were so many, feeding in groups and sharing the mud flats with White Pelicans and Snowy Egrets.. 

Roseate Spoonbill in Flight

It is always startling to see such large birds in flight.  They are so ungainly when the take off and land but to see their beautiful colors against a blue sky is a treat.

We were also privileged to see a Tricolored Heron, a Great Blue Heron, many Egrets, White Pelicans and a squadron of ducks.

Tricolored Heron

Great Blue Heron

Our trip would not have been complete without spotting a couple of these guys sunning themselves.
  We are so lucky to have National Park areas to enjoy. These 140,000 acres snugged up close to the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station are among our favorites.
We will be in the area for another week so plan to return at least once more.
American Alligator


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