Black Point Wildlife Drive
Merritt Island - Part 2

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Black Point Wildlife Drive Part 2

Continuing on the Black Point Wildlife Drive, I watch other vehicles pass me on the narrow, one-way road and wonder how much these other people are really seeing. They're driving much too fast, almost streaking by animals they've come so far to see.

I'm sure they didn't see the armadillo creeping across the mangrove roots back near the entrance.

I almost missed it and my van was creeping along at about 10mph. And they couldn't have spotted the snowy egret almost obscured by grass at the edge of a canal.

The snowy looked almost comical, its beautiful white feathers wind-swept to one side as it stood shoulder-hunched with a very ruffled, almost annoyed look.

I sometimes think the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet give unrealistic expectations about what we'll see, that something dramatic is guaranteed to occur if we drive fast to find it.

Look for birds everywhere beside the road but especially at the culverts where the water is flowing. Herons, egrets and wood storks sometimes line the canals around the culverts and wait for minnows and other food to be delivered by the moving water.

Perhaps the most reliable stop for locating wildlife is the parking area near the Allan D. Cruickshank Memorial Trail, a 5-mile path through the marsh with an observation tower near the parking lot.

You'll be very unlucky if you don't see at least one alligator in the canal beside the parking lot. Gators favor the small mangrove islands, stretching out over the roots to sun themselves. The culverts at the parking lot are popular fast food outlets for great blue herons and great egrets. All along the drive the wildlife seems little bothered by traffic.

However, if you get out of your vehicle , birds often paddle away or fly off. If you drive next to them, roll down your window to take pictures, they normally pose willingly, ignoring you.

Sunrise is when wildlife most actively feeds. Traffic also is at its lowest then. By 10 o'clock on weekends, there can be a parade of vehicles, something the critters definitely don't appreciate.

If You Go

The Black Point Wildlife Drive at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is reached by taking State Road 406 from Titusville . Follow the road across a bridge and continue on it when it turns left. The wildlife drive, clearly marked with a large sign, will soon appear on the left. The road veering to the right at the crossroads is State Road 402, which leads to the refuge headquarters.

Take binoculars and a camera with a good telephoto lens, 300mm and larger. If you go early, take a small cooler with drinks and snacks. There are no stores once you leave Titusville.

You can speed through the refuge in as little as 20 minutes. Count on at least 1.5 hours or more to do it right. And once you complete the circuit of the Merritt Island Wildlife Drive, drive it again.

You may be surprised how different it is the second time around; sometimes for the better, perhaps for the worse if it's late and crowded. No two drives are ever alike, which makes the experience so appealing.

For more information, contact refuge headquarters at 321/867-0667. Website

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