Good news! We’ve recovered our photos after our computer crash in the Okefenokee Swamp and are now looping back to our last adventures in Florida. A special shout out to Jeffrey the Wizard at PeachMAC Atlanta for his help getting everything back online. What a relief!
Hector has been a fan of space science and every kind of aircraft since he was a kid. And during his various trips to Kennedy Space Center (including one with me) he became intrigued with the area surrounding the Space Center, which consists of lands that have restricted access close to the launch pads and a larger protected area to increase the overall safety buffer zone. As these are undeveloped, they also serve as a wonderful wildlife resource.
The protected areas include the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service administers the National Wildlife Refuge, which stretches for 140,000 acres, and manages habitat for over 500 species of wildlife and over 1,000 species of plants.
The habitats of the Refuge include freshwater impoundments, saltwater estuaries, hardwood hammocks, pine flatwoods, scrub and coastal dunes. The most productive, and therefore diversified areas are the marshes. These shallow water grasslands provide a home for crabs, worms, clams, and fish, which attract animals higher in the food chain.
The Cape Canaveral Seashore, which is part of Merritt Island, is managed by the National Park Service. The Seashore consists of 57,661 acres on the Atlantic Coast and includes the longest undeveloped stretch of oceanfront left along the East coast of Florida. It’s an important nesting area for sea turtles; the loggerhead, leatherback and green sea turtles all nest here from May through August. We were here too early so we missed it!.
We thought we’d seen beautiful birds in Florida so far, but this was one of the best areas for viewing birds of all.
One of the most interesting areas of the Wildlife Refuge is the Black Point Wildlife Drive, a seven-mile self-guided tour through salt and freshwater marshes. We made the drive several times: in the afternoon, in the morning and mid-day, to try to catch views of different types of wildlife.
Just after dawn we saw an absolutely crazy bird feeding frenzy in a pond near the ocean. Lots of species, thousands of birds, all absolutely gorging on food in this small body of water. Including massive groups of White Pelicans feeding as a unit. Whatever was in the water was good to eat and there was apparently a lot of it.
Another day, we went on a canoe trail on Mosquito Lagoon, along the backside of the Seashore’s barrier island. The canoe trail was absolutely striking, with tall palm trees on the islands, lots of birds and one funny raccoon wading in the water. As we came ashore we spotted a huge manatee across the water. Love those manatees.
And, on our last evening, we drove to a town called Celebration, in the Orlando area, to visit the fourth cousin of the Murphy-Vega clan, Bob, and his wife Yara. We had yet another lovely family reunion with them and also my cousin Mimi and her boyfriend Tim, who’d driven over from Sarasota.
We would have stayed longer, but this was one of the shorter stops on our way north. I do recommend to anyone traveling to the Kennedy Space Center to stay a few days extra and check out this lovely area.