Three Weeks Birding in Florida - Black Point Drive on Merritt Island.

I think it must be the 19700 RAW images I need to process - but somehow I managed to neglect a report on the amazing day spent driving around Black Point Drive after visiting the excellent Visitor Centre on Merritt Island. This is a significant omission because it is a World-famous reserve and perfect for a day's birding if one does not to wish to walk too far - that is, a few yards maximum...
The Visitor Centre is only a couple of miles from the 'Drive entrance so is worth visiting if restrooms are required or books about the local wildlife as they have an excellent book-shop there. The boardwalk outside the Centre is worth checking also - we were treated to some lovely views of Ospreys on their nest as well as Painted Buntings - a mega-tick for many American birders let alone us! The feeders were the attraction for these lovely birds and they seemed unconcerned about the excited Americans only feet away - if only our birds were so easy-going! The lighting was very tricky though as deep (2000ASA) shade is a constant challenge unless a bird pauses in good sunlight for a moment: high contrast can then be an issue instead.

Osprey fishing just off the boardwalk.

Male Painted Bunting.

Female Painted Bunting.
The lakes just before the beginning of the 'Drive are worth checking for ducks - we were treated to some nice views of Ring-necked Ducks from the road-side. A pair of Killdeer also came to have a look at us; not rare birds here but worth a second look as both species are elegant in their own way.

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Ring-necked Ducks.

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We found that the best way to maximise our birding opportunities as we drove around Black Point Drive was to travel at minimum speed (obviously) and stop whenever any movement was seen in the water alongside the road or in the adjoining mangroves; stopping at every spot where other birders were congregating was also useful. I was surprised by how many cars were driven past obvious birding spots - I suspect many visitors just want to see the alligators...

To British eyes the American Coot is a strangely familiar (but also unfamiliar) bird with its subtle differences in plumage; there were several groups of these striking birds to be seen, all providing perfect swim-by opportunities for photography. Herons and Ibis were also plentiful at many points along the drive; once again the close views were breathtaking to me. They just don't seem to notice the human with a big lens just 20 feet away...

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American Coot.

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Little Blue Heron.

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Tricoloured Heron.

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Great Blue Heron on Mangrove Bush.

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Glossy Ibis.
We had never seen Sora before so I was excited to be treated to an extended view of one as it searched for food in the roadside chanel andBlue-winged Teal also provided some lovely photographic opportunities. None of these birds are at all rare in Florida but for a Brit' the combination of sunshine, reflective water and co-operative birds it is the stuff of dreams.

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Blue-winged Teal.

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Male Blue-winged Teal.
Other birds seen and photographed (and posted on Flickr) included American Robin, White Ibis, Pied-billed Grebe and both Yellowlegs although the most memorable pictures from this day must be the adult Roseate Spoonbill in full breeding plumage beautiful reflected in the still waters.

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Roseate Spoonbill.

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Roseate Spoonbill in full breeding plumage.

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