Anyone who keeps bird lists and wants to get the best bang for the buck has to go to several geographic locations at different seasons. For Big Year folks, this means (in addition to chasing rarities) visits to what refer to as “The Big 5”. These are the 5 states where you can pick up a huge number of regular species and also be in proximity to potential rarities showing up while you are there. These states are Alaska, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida. All of these states have unique specialty birds–birds that occur more commonly there than many other places (and a few are completely unique to those areas). What’s it like to visit a birding festival in one of these locations? Read on. I will tell you about my trip to Brevard County, Florida for the an old and well-recognized festival, the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival. The epicenter of the birding action here is the very birdy Merritt Island NWR near Titusville, FL.
I arrived in Florida late Sunday afternoon, 1/20/2013, with 3 hours of daylight to burn. Spending that time at Merritt Island NWR seemed like a good plan. And 70 species later I would say, “Yes. That was a good choice.”
Merritt Island NWR is a big wildlife refuge near Cape Canaveral where the space shuttle launches occurred. Here are a few pics from the Black Point Wildlife Drive.
Northern Pintail male in alternate plumage – Merritt Island NWR – near Titusville FL – 2013-01-20 photo by Greg Miller