Friday, June 09, 2006

NWR - A Refuge for People Too

Everyone knows about National Parks. They are wonderful places, but everyone knows about them. The Grand Canyon was great on Christmas Eve, but two days later it was packed with visitors. I shudder to imagine what it's like in July.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near Cape Kennedy, Florida, introduced us to the National Wildlife Refuge system. 140,000 acres of the Florida coast are home to migrating birds, shore birds, and wading birds which are easily viewed from your car along the 7-mile Black Point Wildlife Drive. What a wonderful introduction to birding for the newcomer! I saw birds I had only read about in books before, such as Wood Storks. We learned to observe beaks and legs closely to differentiate all the different herons, egrets, ducks, etc. Since a friend’s daughter was killed by an alligator, I’m rather paranoid about them. Best viewed from the car.

Refuges are found in "exotic" places such as Florida, or places closer to home, such as Muscatatuck NWR near Seymour Indiana, a mere one hour drive away. The birds here were more familiar overall, but it was a thrill to watch a Wood Duck family with 12 little babies swimming in a row, or the Red Headed Woodpecker that landed in a tree right in front of our car. Cars do make good bird blinds. Any people we saw were interested in the birds and wildlife too. Not once did I hear an annoying child whine or argue with a sibling. We used the spotting scope to see a Great Blue Heron release the fish that was too big to swallow after all, and finally decided that the white billed bird must have been an American Coot. These Canadian Geese weren't disturbed at all when our car slowly approached them. My biggest problem was not getting the mirror in the shot!

No comments: