Jul 26

Merritt Island Refuge

Category: Travel

Merritt Island contains the Kennedy Space center, a substantial human population, a bug population to match, and a sizeable wildlife preserve.  It is on the critical path for migratory birds on the eastern shore of the US, and is one of the best bird-watching spots in the country.  Mosquitos can be quite bad here; special water-control methods are used to control them, but that only reduces their density a little.  If you come here, wear clothes that fully cover your body, and if you will be outside for any length of time, bring a mosquito screen hat that protects your face.  Repellent will reduce the landing frequency a little, but prepare to lose blood anyway, even with 100% deet.  I’ve been here a few times and the bugs have been tolerable some times, nightmarish others.  On one visit, I was pursued by a visible and deafening cloud of mosquitos.  Covered with clothing frpm head to toe, pants tucked into socks, wearing rain gear and covered with oily 100% deet, I had trouble seeing through my mosquito-net headgear because of the layer of crushed bugs on it.  You’ve been warned.

However, Friends have recently reported a bug-free visit on the wildlife drive, so your mileage may vary.  This visit wasn’t too bad for me.  Either way, it’s worth it, particularly if you go during migratory season, when the population and diversity of birds increases.  You’ll likely see alligators, armadillos, lizards, coots, eagles, herons of all sorts, spoonbills, flycatchers, and of course more common birds like blackbirds, vultures and varieties of seagulls.  And then there’s the plants.  if you’re from a more temperate place (like me) everything will look tropical and exotic.

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The armadillo pictures here was actually photographed on Canaveral AFS, which is right next door.  But I’ve seen these guys all over on merritt island.  They’re quite common wherever there’s scrubby vegetation in Florida and Georgia.

There are a lot of things to do on Merritt Island; you can fish in designated places, kayak, of course bird-watch, there is a wildlife drive (a couple of miles of dirt road that forms a loop, with interpretive signs), some hiking trails and a beach.

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