Thursday, March 3, 2011

Merritt Island, Day 2

Now that I've finished a complete draft of my dissertation, I actually have time to devote to other things (yay, other things!). So here I am to pick up where I left off with our December trip to Titusville (Part 1) (Part 2).

If you'll recall, Maureen and I had made an unsuccessful run at 100 birds on the first day of our trip, and our new goal was to reach that milestone by the end of our 3 days. We began our second morning at Canaveral National Seashore to hopefully pick up some shorebirds. Along the drive in we passed group after group of Lesser Scaup on the water, but weren't able to pick out any other waterfowl, other than a lone Ruddy Duck.

Lesser Scaup, with a lone Ruddy Duck in the bottom righthand corner

When we got to a boat ramp where we've had luck on previous trips, American White Pelicans were flying all about, with the occasional Brown Pelican plunge diving. Once we followed around the perimeter of the island to get a better look, we noticed at least four Bottlenose Dolphin swimming back and forth, right in amongst the pelicans! 

American White Pelicans and a Bottlenose Dolphin

American White Pelicans

Afterwards, we backtracked, re-checking the groups of waterfowl as we went. At one stop, across the water, we could see a hunter, camouflaged, and crouching in position. It was a little unsettling trying to count birds while there's a rifle hovering over them. Fortunately, no shots were fired as we surveyed them. We were just able to make out a small group of Canvasbacks, which were lifers for us, and much more attractive alive than dead, I'm sure.

From there, we turned down Bio Lab Rd., which we'd never ventured down. We were hoping to get closer to some Canvasbacks, but we were never able to figure out how to get near the area where we saw them. I drove down the dirt road slowly, while Maureen and I scouted the fields and ditches on opposite sides of the car. Amazingly, tucked away in a ditch, Maureen was able to spot a Florida Bobcat cub. With our time left in Florida counting down to the final months, we had hoped that we would come across this subspecies. They're periodically seen at Daggerwing Nature Center, but we've never been fortunate enough to see one there. 

Florida Bobcat

Florida Bobcat

Bobcat cubs need their beauty rest, too

After snapping a few photos, we decided to leave it alone, and we certainly didn't want to upset mama bobcat, wherever she was. Our very next exciting encounter was… two more bobcat cubs. These were more alert and walking about side by side. One of them ran into the cluster of trees after a minute, and the other lingered for a bit before following into the same tree. The first one sat up near the top of the tree at batted its paw, playfully, at its sibling below. 

Moving on, we found a cluster of sparrows, and were able to pick out a Swamp Sparrow, in amongst several Savannahs. Several Common Yellowthroats foraged the muddy ground, making their reedy calls.
Savannah Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow

Common Yellowthroat

Following the road along some shoreline, we finally found the shorebirds we were looking for. Lots of Dunlin, Sanderlings, and an assortment of plovers. Coming across some terns, we found the expected Forster's and Royal Terns, as well as a an unexpected cousin, a single Common Tern. 

Royal Tern

A shy Forster's Tern
Common Tern

A little later, we also found three Red-breasted Mergansers in the sea, and a group of Hooded Mergansers in freshwater. We still weren't going to make it to 100 species by the end of the day, but with Viera Wetlands the next day we were in pretty good shape to hit our goal by the end of the trip… as long as the weather held.

Red-breasted Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

Red-shouldered Hawk


  1. Great collection of birds, and congratulations for the bobcats!

  2. The bobcats are beautiful. Dolphins and pelicans living in harmony, nice find.
    Love the picture of the Red-shouldered Hawk as well as all the other birds!

  3. Wow- what a group of photos! Love the bobcat- unfortunately my own cat thinks it IS a bobcat.