Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

This island shares a common boundary with NASA's Kennedy Space Center. The picture below was taken from the refuge, John thinks that the space shuttle on the right is the one scheduled to take off later this month. It was originally to go up this Thursday, which was one of the reasons why we moved our rig here.
 The island has a wide variety of habit, ranging from freshwater impoundments to vast saltwater estuaries. John and I saw a lot of wild life here yesterday, from a most beautiful small butterfly to the huge ugly black turkey vulture. The one pictured below was feeding on a fish on the road. He does not do carry out as hawks prefer to do; the vulture wants to eat in, or wherever he finds the food. Only until our car started to move toward him did he reluctantly drag his meal to the side of the road.

I mentioned hawks, this island has many osprey hanging over the waterways looking for a meal of fish.We also saw a lot of brown pelicans, ibis, and wood storks and a variety of ducks. I was very confused trying to identify the numerous herons and egrets, only to find out later that the island has ten different kinds of that species.
 Another bird which I had always wanted to see was the belted kingfisher. I espied him high up in a tree, I certainly would have liked to have seen him closer! There were many alligators and turtles out sunning themselves by the marshes. But I think the last picture I want to show is that of an armadillo, who was busy foraging for grubs by the side of the road. We have been seeing a fair number of them while driving around in Florida, so I decided that it was about time I snapped a picture of one. They do not pose well either. This armadillo's head was constantly down into the grass. I have to take what I can get! His head is on the left side of the picture, maybe you can see his little pointed ears sticking up if you enlarge the picture.
Our last stop in the refuge was to look for manatee at the Haulover Canal. The island is home to Florida's largest population of manatees, but none were seen there today. Anyway, it was getting late in the day and we were hungry. On the way home we stopped at Dixie Crossroads restaurant in Titusville for a delicious meal of rock shrimp. It was the first time I had eaten them, the shrimp have a sweet-tasting meat, much like lobster.

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