Small birds, large birds – the quest to find beautiful birds at Florida’s Merritt Island

by Lanny McDowell on April 4, 2009


There were feeding birds of some sort almost wherever I stopped the car…

This third segment of my Florida birding sojourn involves parts of Merritt Island,  a refuge east of Titusville, south of Daytona and within eyesight of Cape Canaveral.

After driving up from Wakodahatchee, I got a place to stay, dumped some gear and made it out for a couple of late afternoon hours to  Merritt Island and chose one of the  more commonly used (and paved) driving tours you can take around the managed impoundments of the preserve.  Black Point I think it’s called.  I stopped in at the park headquarters and store to purchase the Bill Pranty guide to Florida birding.  The next morning at sunrise there was a thin layer of ice on the back window of my rental and I was eager to drive back to the island to run the less-travelled coral and dirt loops along the southern side of the preserve.  This drive included canals, a saltwater bayshore and mudflats… perfect habitats for swimming, diving and wading birds with convenient and frequent access for photographing birds.

Photo tip: on a typical day of shooting, when I actually spent a fair amount of time birding, as opposed to time spent getting to the birding, I was filling one and a half four gigabyte flash cards, taking bird photos in RAW and large Jpegs.  This represents about 450 shots.  I usually do not stop to edit along the way, meaning delete, because I don’t need to and don’t want to take the time.  The exception is when I fill up a card and do not have access to another card right then and there.  I try not to let this happen.

Near the beginning of the driving tour I found a string of resting Stilt Sandpipers, the only ones I saw on the entire trip.  Here’s a flock of winging dowitchers, long-billeds I imagine:








I noticed that some different species associate with ibises, following them around to see what gets stirred up – Pied-billed Grebes, snowies and Little Blue Herons.




Here are two whoppers, meaning I chose to display them, a Wilson’s Snipe and a female Belted Kingfisher, in a really large format, at least on my laptop.  Which do you think is better, to show bird photos that fit neatly into the frame of the blog or large ones like these two which put you closer to the bird, but which may induce you to use sliders up and down and side to side to see the entire image?



I have a list of folks who get an emailed notice from me with a URL to click on when I have posted a new blog.  There are times when I just send out photos to the list without bothering to blog about them or post them to a listserve.  Not on the list?  Want to be? Just contact me (below right) saying you want to be on the list or, better yet,  subscribe to Feedburner above, in the right side column for automatic blog feeds to your email.  Getting off the list is just as simple.

These images and more are available for purchase. Contact me or View store.

Birds are cool!  Lanny     

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Pete Gilmore 04.04.09 at 8:44 pm


Great snipe, who seems to be pivoting to look at you.
The angles on the backs of his knees, in combination
with the mud I can almost smell, is nice.

The shimmering reflection is a nice contrast. Pete


Lanny McDowell 04.05.09 at 3:12 pm

This guy was across a canal from the driving loop I was on. I think I came across six snipe in all, all in the same general area and spaced out rather evenly. When they were uptight they would hustle into any nearby grassy cover. If I left the car they would bolt, complainng loudly all the way. I forgot about those red tail feathers, much like a red-tailed hawk.


Betty 04.06.09 at 1:09 am

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



Lanny McDowell 04.06.09 at 10:20 am

Welcome aboard, Betty & thanks for letting me know. I have been a little lax with the blogging recently and anticipate both continuing the series on birding Florida (from this last February) and staying in tune with whatever birding news occurs on Matha’s Viineyard this springtime.


Soo 04.14.09 at 3:48 pm

Great MI shots. Particularly like the B. Kingfisher. It may be my computer, but everything seem dark. Maybe that I have been in the sun to long.

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