A Blustery Day

We woke up to cold – for central Florida – quite blustery Friday recently. We’d decided earlier in the week to hike during the week at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. That way we’d beat the weekend birding crowds and have the trail pretty much to ourselves. We hoped for good weather, although the forecast was for cold, rain and wind. What the heck, if it were cold and windy it would just be good prep for our upcoming trip to Argentine Patagonia to see fall color in the eastern Andes. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be rainy.

The rain that morning was forecast to end by about 10 or 11, so we hopped in the car and headed east for an hour, driving through wind and mist the whole way, arriving just before 11. Expecting a similar lack of crowds as our trip in late December, we were surprised to find the NWR parking lot full! Never underestimate the passion of the birding community, even on a cold and windy day. Refuge staff verified that the trails were open and we headed off to the Cruickshank Trail. A 4.8 mile, easy trail, accessed via the 7.7 mile Black Point Wildlife Drive loop.

Cruikshank Loop

Heading over to the Black Point Wildlife Drive we began to pass cars pulled over for their occupants to observe great egrets, white ibis, wood storks, and more. A pond at the entrance to the wildlife drive had a cluster of feeding wading birds – a lovely sight. I slowed to pull over on the narrow berm road to more closely admire them, but was nearly rear-ended by a truck full of birders. For a cold, wet and windy day, there sure were a lot of folks out to see wading birds. We pressed on to the Cruickshank Loop, enjoying the scenery and quietly passing the many itinerant birders.

Out of the car at Cruickshank, donning fanny packs with water and light snacks, off we went. It was a good training hike after all. Winds were 20+, gusting to 30+ in a constant mist. The front of my fleece was soaked at about the halfway mark. For much of the western trail along the sound I turned my hat backwards so it wouldn’t blow away. Honestly, as a walk, being outdoors was great, but a relaxing hike it wasn’t. It turned into more of a training hike as our goal became getting to the end of the trail. Our pace was pretty good!

Not much in the way of bird life. They were hunkered down. We did see a handful of roseate spoonbills.

Spoonbill and heron
Remnants of former land uses
Mangroves
A plethora of Mangrove seedings
Loud and blustery

I’m glad we went. It was a solitary trail today, we encountered no other hikers. Intense nature can be fun.

We finished the day with a late seafood lunch at Dixie Crossroads. I got my fried oyster fix. 😊

One day to the next. 24 hours later these skies greeted us. Reminding us of another reason that February in central Florida is a wonderful place to be.

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