I haven’t been to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in several years. So I headed over last weekend to see how birdy it is this year. My first stop was at Parrish Park for sunrise, where I found Michael set up under the bridge. For a morning that was forecast to be completely clear with no cloud cover, there were some nice clouds in the sky – always a good sign for sunrise!
This first shot was taken about 30 minutes before sunrise. That’s often the time when the colors are deepest. I was excited to try my new black filter, a 10-stop neutral density filter. I wanted to experiment with capturing the motion in the clouds. 10 stops was a bit much in the early dawn – my exposures were about 4 minutes long! I have a lot to learn, but this was my favorite long exposure…
The water was really choppy that morning, and I liked how the filter smoothed out the water. After the sun rose, I took off the filter and took some simpler shots. A little HDR worked some wonders on the color.
Michael set up his iPhone to do a time-lapse of the sunrise. Check it out on his blog.
Then it was time to search for the Long-tailed Duck that has been hanging out under the Max Brewer Bridge recently. I’d never seen a Long-tailed Duck before. We finally spotted the duck fairly far away from the bridge, right in front of the sun (of course). Why are lifer photos always bad?
After a few shots of the duck, I headed to Black Point Wildlife Drive. The sun disappeared behind clouds as we spotted some American Avocets. It was fun to get really close to them. Most of my shots were similar to the avocets at the Lake Hancock Outfall Wetlands. My one good flight shot was slightly out of focus, so I took it into some Topaz filters to make an artsy image. I love how the filters can salvage a slightly out of focus image.
There were plenty of birds on Black Point, but most of them were on the wrong side of the light. It made me want to go back in the afternoon. In a pond just past the restrooms were a couple of American Wigeons. I think that was the closest I’ve gotten to wigeons, so it was nice to get some good details in the photos.
As I headed home, I stopped back at Parrish Park to see if the Long-tailed Duck had come closer. Of course he hadn’t. Actually, we couldn’t find him again. The water was really really choppy. Michael spotted two Horned Grebes bobbing in the surf. It was hard to focus on them with all the waves, and when I’d finally get focused, they would dive! Silly birds. This was my best shot.
Michael showed me the pier on the other side of the bridge, and there were some Common Loons in the surf. Again, it was the closest I’ve gotten to a loon. I had to shoot against the meager light, but the bird was great. What a fun morning!
Want to learn more about nature photography at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge?
Check out my Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!