Places I Go
A summary of my most frequented nature spots.
Viera Wetlands * Canaveral Locks * Jetty Park * Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge * Lori Wilson Park
The Viera Wetlands
The Viera Wetlands, also known as the Ritch Grissom Memorial Park, is a hotbed of nature activity completely viewable from a vehicle. it’s perfect for those unable to walk long distances, with small children, or during mosquito season if you’re one of those chosen mosquito magnets. I find a little of everything all year round. It’s great for birders, great for a morning walk, great for nature study. It’s not great for finding solitude. With an estimated 4000 visitors a month, there is no rest for the weary out there. Some interesting things to look for include bobcats, caracara, american and least bitterns, bald eagles, and the occasional spoonbill. Strangely you may also find shorebirds, like least terns, black skimmers, and ringbilled gulls.
If you visit, you should also go to the click ponds, located off of Four Mile road, and Moccasin Island Water Management Area at the end of Four Mile road.
The Canaveral Locks are one of those “hidden treasures” us nature people like to talk about. Most people think of it as a rather unlikely place to get photographs or find interesting things. I find the opposite. There is a great variety of animal life around. I have often seen dolphins, manatees, cormorants, brown pelicans, white pelicans, and sea turtles. Herons and egrets are abundant here, and the mysteriously unique woodstork as well. Some other things I have seen in this area include Cooper’s Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Loons. There is always someone around, but they are usually at work or visiting.
There is a nearby area, actually located off the parking lot to the locks that is soon going to be easily accessible and is known as Avocet Lagoon. Jetty Park is very close by, and Port’s End Park is on the way into the locks.
Although also located within Port Canaveral, Jetty Park is it’s own little world. You can fish, you can eat, you can buy bait, and you can camp. On top of that, you can go to the beach. A really nice beach, that still has dunes covered with sea rockets and frequented by birds. Sea turtles nest here, and dolphins frolic in the waves. The fishing pier, which extends past the jetty into the ocean, is an amazing place to get photographs. You can see the Canaveral Lighthouse at that point. Looking out into the waves you might see dolphins, sea turtles, right whales, and sea stars on the rocks. Birds that I have seen at this point vary tremendously with the weather. Gannets are common in winter, loons frequent the rocklines, and ruddy turnstones land on the pier affording a photographer that special frame filling shot. Gulls of all types fly around, Bonapart’s Gulls seem to be rather common. Terns, most frequently Royal, Sanwich, and Common fly at eye level chasing bait and baitfish. A word of warning; Watch out for the fisherman’s lines. Don’t walk behind them when they cast, and certainly don’t criticize them if they accidentally catch some poor pelican. It’s a pretty common problem to catch a turtle or bird, and for the most part, they do their best to get them off the line and returned to nature. I love Jetty Park.
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge
This place is famous, I need not say much. Spoonbills, shorebirds, and ducks. There are a lot of snakes and furry things too. Bring every lens you have and plan on staying a while. Don’t miss Biolab Road, off of the Manatee Viewing Station. It goes out to Canaveral National Seashore and affords amazing views of the VAB and shuttle pads. The new Ares is sometimes visible here too.
Lori Wilson Park
Located in the middle of Cocoa Beach, Lori Wilson Park is as unlikely a great birding spot as they come. It’s little and crowded and ahs a dog park. Still the hammock area is beautiful and an amazing reminder that what we now see as condos was once a major stop for migrating birds. Spring and Winter, many different warbler species come through. Everything from palm warblers to tanagers. I believe I saw something about an Ani once. It’s dark and hard to photograph in there, but it’s worth a try. Look out for Blue Tailed skinks and Gopher Tortoises. Someone a long time ago reported Scrub Jays here, but no one I know has ever seen one.
Other Places I go that I haven’t described yet
Blue Heron Water Treament Plant
St. Sebastian State Park
Three Lakes WMA
Ocala National Forest