Being our final trip in US before we headed back to India we tried to maximise this short two day trip as much as possible, hence managed to squeeze in three destinations – Orlando Wetlands Park, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and the NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
For ease of reading, we have split the blog in two parts – this one narrates our experiences at the Orlando Wetlands Park & Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge while the blog post – NASA’s Kennedy Space Center talks about our day trip to this must visit place!
For the 1st time we used bus transport – Megabus from Atlanta to Orlando. The 9 hour overnight ride was smooth although we did not find the seats comfortable enough for a sound sleep. As soon as we reached Orlando, we picked up our rental car from Enterprise & started our drive to Orlando Wetlands Park after a good breakfast.
The Orlando Wetlands Park is a 1200+ acre man-made wetlands system that was developed for the reuse of the highly treated effluent from regional treatment facility. The park is open for public and has a variety of wildlife and attracts a lot of wintering waterfowl during migration. Read more about the park here.
We reached the park pretty late from a birding perspective (by 1130 hrs) but still decided to give it a shot and we were not disappointed. We got to see some really good birding activity throughout our 2.5 miles walking trail as we spotted Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Wood Storks, Common & Purple Gallinule, Ospreys, Red-shouldered Hawk, Sandhill Cranes, Anhingas, Blue-winged Teals, American White Ibis, Alligators and so on. (Find the complete ebird list at end of the post)
Here are some of images we made at this lovely place:
We ended up spending around 3 hours here and finally decided to resume our journey. After a break of couple of hours for lunch, we were at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge by 1600 hrs.
The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center for the protection of migratory birds. Consisting of 140,000 acres, the Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats: coastal dunes, saltwater marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks that provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals and 15 federally listed species. Read more about the place here.
Contrary to the Orlando Wetlands Park, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has a Black Point Wildlife Drive (3.5 miles) where you can bird while driving. Just as we started the drive, we were greeted by a good number of Snowy Egrets, Tricolored Herons and Little Blue Herons. As we continued on the drive, the activity seemed a little low with sightings of few Greater & Lesser Yellowlegs, Grey Plovers, American Coots and Blue-winged Teals. Finally the drive ended in couple of hours with the royal Bald Eagle enjoying a beautiful sunset.
Before heading to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, we spent an hour again at the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge on one of the walking trails where we came across a good number of Gulls, Black Skimmers, Turkey & Black Vultures, Least Sandpipers and couple of Common Yellowthroats in breeding Plumage.
And just as we were on our return, we got to see a huge flock of Dunlins flying around showing some amazing patterns of nature!
If you happen to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, do consider visiting the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge if you are interested in Wildlife & Birds. The place won’t disappoint you. As for Orlando Wetlands Park, its a perfect place for birders to spend an entire day if you are staying in Orlando. Here is my favourite shot from the trip, a Bald Eagle enjoying the sunset at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.
We stayed at Days Inn in Titusville which is around 30 minutes from the Kennedy Space Center. This was the cheapest option we could find as we booked pretty late, the hotel was good enough if you are just looking for something to stay overnight and spend rest of the time exploring the place. There are good number of restaurants also close by to the hotel which is an added advantage. Read about the trip to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in the link below:
Signing off until next time, ciao 🙂
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– Rudraksha & Shraddha