Monday, January 25, 2016

December 31, 2015 - Viera, Rockledge and Sebastain, FL

Erwin suggested a day trip to Veira, FL and visit Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands today since the weather was perfect.  Edith got her photography gear ready, but forgot to charge the battery last night.  She took battery charger along and charged batteries in the car while on the road.

Before we were ready to go on the auto loop at the wetlands David, the park volunteer, pulled alongside and informed us that there were lots of shore birds at another area and suggested that we follow him over there, which we did.

Following David to the area where lots of shorebirds were at
We did not know about two other areas (there are three of them) and were thrilled to see so many American White Pelicans, Wood Storks among others feeding in the ponds. David said they drain the holding ponds every month and when the water is very low the fish are all gathered together and the Pelicans, Storks, Herons and other waterbirds have a feeding frenzy! It was very thrilling to watch the birds gobble the fish up! Hard to imagine the birds swallowing the fish whole through their skinny little necks!  

American White Pelicans

Ibises in Flight
David stayed with us for about 45 minutes explaining and naming the shore birds.  He was very knowledgeable, very courteous.  After he retired from work force he took up classes in order to become a park ranger volunteer.

We went to another area - the auto loop drive.  We visited it a year ago after Edith read about it in Audubon Society website. Last year there were more nesting sites than this time. Many palm trees are dying or dead, so there is not much left for birds to build nests on. Ranger David said they were in planning stage and trying to get permission to build a nesting platform in the water but are running into a lot of governmental red tape!

"Hey, make room for my landing"
Roseate Spoonbill
"How is that for a pose?"
Waiting for the mate to return
"Hey, don't even think about going this way"
Wood Storks taking off
The drive was nice and we were able to pull over several times to allow Edith to get out for photography. There were several photographers (mostly females) with camera and huge lens.  That made Edith so jealous, but she said it is high on her wish list. 

It was past noontime and we were hungry. We did not fix sandwiches before we left for Viera.  Went to town district, decided to try Austin Chophouse.  Very interesting interior.  Edith had French Onion soup and Erwin got ham/cheese sub.  We were satisfied with what we ate.

While in the restaurant Edith googled to see what else to visit while we were in Viera or nearby. It mentioned of Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary in Rockledge, FL (15-20 minutes drive from Viera).  It was not that hard to find the sanctuary.  The trail is a 2 mile long loop and is not of hard packed surface.  The website mentioned that scrub jays are present at that park, so we were hoping to see them.

The trail was of soft dirt most of the way making it difficult to walk comfortably.  There were hikers walking back to the parking lot and Erwin asked if they had seen scrub jays.  “Yes, they are over there” (pointing to an area we were not familiar with).  We stopped several times to look around and to wait for the birds’ appearance.  Nothing for more than a mile and half. Erwin played the jay’s call song on his IPhone hoping to attract the jays, but that did not work.

We were at almost the end of a 2 mile mark there when suddenly appeared a Scrub Jay perching on top of a small tree.  Then came another one, another and another. They were so brazen, not afraid of our presence.  They came so close to us and one of them landed on the top of Erwin’s hat.  Oh, Erwin was so thrilled that he took a selfie of him with the bird.  We stayed to admire the birds for about 15 minutes.  We left when the birds had enough of us!

From the sanctuary, we drove back to Viera Wetlands to see if there could be more birds to see.  We decided to check the third area, but there was nothing much to see.  We took the auto loop drive again, saw mergansers, Least Bittern and Green Heron. Of course, there were alligators in the water.

We went back to the campground, fixed supper.  Edith was a bit worried about the changing weather because she wanted to get pictures of the last sunset of 2015. The stormy clouds started to build up blocking the sun’s final departure.  

So this is what the last day of 2015 looked like for us.  We hope y’all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve with your family and friends.

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