Beyond the BackyardMerritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Betcha Can’t Go Just Once!

On December 31 I made yet another trip to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, this time with Dyeyo. He had never been on Blackpoint Wildlife Drive. We carefully planned to go on a day when it would be sunny with little wind. Then we got there and it was a little windy, and there were not as many birds as my last visits. Go figure. Our goal was for Dyeyo to see the Horned Grebe and a Reddish Egret (Big Red doesn’t make it inland to Circle B Bar Reserve, so Dyeyo hadn’t ever seen the Drunken Sailor Dance!) Dyeyo got to see both his birds. :)

The Horned Grebe has been hanging out by the culverts at the bathrooms for the past few weeks. Dyeyo and I set up by the culverts, watching and waiting. It didn’t take long for the grebe to appear–and then disappear back into the culverts! We must have sat there for about half an hour to get glimpses of this silly little bird as he darted out and then went back in again. I guess it was less windy inside the pipes. Then as soon as we left, the bird came out and posed for another couple (figures!). Then he flew across the lake and into a little canal, where we all got good looks at him as he dove about. The minnows in front of him flew up as he chased them. His back feet are very powerful and help him swim and hunt. I didn’t realize until I saw my pictures how unique his eye is — bright red, with a white rim around the pupil!

The little group of Northern Shovelers that I’ve tried to photograph on my previous trips was still there. They were shoveling so much that it was hard to get good pictures of them. They certainly enjoy to give photographers some “birdie butt” (known in birding circles as “upending”). The light has to reflect off the male’s feathers at just the right angle for them to show off their beautiful irridescent green. Here I wasn’t quite on the right angle, but you get a sense of the green.

Dyeyo and I walked around some by the bathrooms, following the little trail out to the observation tower. We almost stepped on this Eastern Meadowlark, who was feeding in the grasses and so inconspicuous that we didn’t notice him at all! He posed for us on some nearby bushes, then decided that we were not a threat and resumed his feeding in the grasses in front of me. I’ve never seen a meadowlark that wasn’t skittish before. This one came so close to me that I couldn’t focus on him! He poked around in the grass, eating seeds and an occasional small worm.