Merrit Island NWR Sign

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Getting There

Trail Map

Merritt Island was everything it was cracked up to be! The six mile self-guided Blackpoint Wildlife Drive was almost deserted - just the way I like it! And, although the brochures suggested that this would be a 30 to 60 minute trip, it took me well over two hours to get my fill of the marshes and their residents. And that was without leaving the drive! I do love the silly birds that think the slower they move, the more invisible they are!  Snowy Egret at Merrit Island
Snowy Egret
Marshes and a Tricolored Heron
View over the Marshes, with a Tricolored Heron

Boat-tailed Grackle - Phot copyright Don Desjardin
Boat-tailed Grackle
Photo copyright Don DesJardin
At one point, a mixed group of grackles flew along the waterways beside me, giving me an excellent chance to distinguish the differences between Common and (my first) Boat-tailed Grackles. This was also the first place I saw and identified Tricolored Herons. A scope is almost a requirement for birding at Merritt Island, if you want to get the most out of your trip. It certainly added to my enjoyment! When I was scoping out a sandbar in the middle of the marsh, what I thought was just another group of gulls, on closer inspection turned into a group of Caspian Terns, accompanied by three Black Dippers and two Bonaparte's Gulls. There were shorebirds everywhere that would never have even been seen (never mind identified) without the frequent use of the scope at every stop. 
The Cruickshank Trail (five miles, approximately 2-3 hours) leads off the Black Point Wildlife Drive at stop # 8 on the self-guided tour. The trail circles a shallow water marsh. A marsh observation tower and a photo blind are located a short distance from the parking lot. I had some difficulty getting into the parking lot because of an obstinate Turkey Vulture who was walking along the road, and refused to take off and let me by.  Turkey Vulture
Turkey Vulture
A trip to the Visitor Centre is well worth the time. There is a display which would be very interesting to children which challenges you to identify the various denizens of the local area. Some are pretty hard to spot! The Centre is located a mile west of the Oak Hammock and Palm Hammock Trails, an interesting adventure in alternate micro-ecologies. 

Merritt Island is only a few miles from Canaveral National Seashore, and a combined trip is certainly worth the effort. I decided to check it out while I was "in the neighbourhood", so to speak .....