Missile Towers over a lagoon  

Canaveral National Seashore

Getting There
Trail Map
The primary objective I had in mind for checking out Canaveral National Seashore was to see if I could find any Florida Scrub Jays. All my information indicated that they were to be found directly after you cross the railroad tracks on the way to the entrance booth (a small fee is required for entry). Yeah, right - I've seen that kind of "lead" before... 

Exactly where the books said they would be was a sign "Entering Scrub Jay Nesting Area", but as I scanned the trees, not a sign of one. There is no stopping along this stretch of road, and if I hadn't noticed a flash of movement, I would have missed all three of them, happily foraging in the grass at the road side. For birds that can't read, they were smart enough to stay between the two signs advertising their nesting area!

Florida Scrub Jay - Photo copyright Don DesJardin
Florida Scrub Jay
Photo copyright Don DesJardin
As the road curves and turns along the back of a large dune separating the road from the beach, there are approximately 10 different parking areas, with boardwalks (some accessible for the disabled) leading over the dune to the actual seashore. There is no foot traffic allowed on the dune itself to protect the fragile ecology of the dune grasses. 

I discovered an unexpected problem birding this area. The minute I stepped foot out of my lovely air conditioned car, the high temperature, and even higher humidity resulted in a total loss of vision! My glasses, scope, camera and binoculars all promptly fogged over, reducing my visibility to zero. This did not strike me as being particularly good for my optical equipment, so I replaced the equipment in the car and crossed the dune with just a field guide, empty handed of optics, with my glasses perched on top of my head, waiting for them to de-fog. If you visit and hope to use any visual supports, turn off your air conditioning early and let your equipment acclimatize slowly to the conditions. 

My birding was thus restricted to birds I could see and identify with my unaided eye. There were many rapidly moving blurs along the shoreline, but I did manage to pick out a Red Knot, a Ruddy Turnstone and a few Sanderlings. Of course, even seeing any pelagic birds was a lost cause.... but, the view was marvellous. Each parking area had a small group of fishermen standing in the surf, scattered along the shore.

Turkey Vultures
Turkey Vultures
There were turkey vultures everywhere along the road fronting the Seashore, including one at some kind of military tracking station to the west of the road, who sat there and let me approach very closely in the car, and then slowly took a bow!  Turkey Vulture Taking a Bow
Turkey Vulture acknowledging my presence
Missle Towers over the lagoon
Missile Towers
The road back to the entrance gate passed by several lagoons, but mark the parking areas, parking is restricted. But at least I could see the birds (now that my binoculars had unfogged themselves). I'm sure that the missile gantry in the background contained the rocket taking John Glenn back into space - at least, the timing was right! 

The Scrub Jays were ignoring the signs on the return trip, so I didn't get another look at them, unfortunately.

My birding trip to Texas and Florida ended rather ignominiously, as I took a wrong turn leaving the Canaveral National Seashore and found myself in a restricted military area. The guard with the gun was quite nice about it, but watched me carefully as I turned around and headed for the freeway directly back to Orlando. 

On returning to my hotel, I got the news that it had snowed in Edmonton while we were away. Although I hated to leave, the thought of somewhat lower temperatures was attractive. That thought lasted almost half an hour after getting to the airport in Edmonton!

All in all, 16 life birds - a GREAT TRIP!