Friday, December 26, 2008

A Field Trip to the Beach!

We've talked before about Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (MINWR), Canaveral National Seashore, and Playalinda Beach. It was time for another visit up that direction, so neighbor John and I took advantage of the Chamber of Commerce weather last weekend, traveled up US#1 to Titusville's Garden Street, and headed east.

First, a few facts. MINWR is a 140,000 acre refuge that shares a common boundary with NASA's Kennedy Space Center. It lies in the Atlantic Flyway and is a major route for migrating birds. It is an important part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Some 330 species of birds use the Refuge, either as a full-time residence or a winter destination. According to link provided above, approximately half of the Refuge's 140,000 acres consists of brackish estuaries and marshes. The remaining lands consist of coastal dunes, scrub oaks, pine forests and flatwoods, and palm and oak hammocks. (I urge you to follow the above link - the resulting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service site has lots of good, crisply written information.)
This was John's first visit, and eventually the conversation led to a discussion of water management and impoundments used as part of habitat management at the Refuge. Originally, the impoundments (dikes) were created in the 1950s for mosquito control (early Space Center workers will remember why!). The impoundments helped with the mosquito problem, but were found to be detrimental to the marsh habitat. Lots of people, government entities, and organizations collaborated to develop a good solution, and now the 76 impoundments not only help control the mosquito population, but provide food and habitat for birds and other critters. Be sure to read the impoundment link - it provides good insight into how technology and nature coexist so beautifully.
The above photo of the Great Egret in breeding plumage is one of Jim Angy's many photos from MINWR. Five years ago, we produced The Nature of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a photo album on a CD full of information and Jim's pictures. I'd forgotten just how good it is until I started doing some research for this posting. The CD displays only on PCs, and eventually Matt will turn it into a narrated DVD, but meanwhile, you can learn more about it at our companion site,
Eventually, John and I wound up at Playalinda Beach. If you've watched the Beautiul Beach section of our Florida Beach Basics - The Space Coast DVD, you know what a cool beach it is. I had on one of my Sea-Bean Symposium shirts and was stopped by a surfer dude who pulled a hamburger bean out of his pocket to show me. So while he and I talked beans, John took photos like this one. Just look at the varied activities going on in this one small stretch of sand - fishing, surfing, sunning, wading, beachcombing - and the shuttle facility off in the distance. Perfect!
A fine, mellow day. If you live around the Space Coast, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to MINWR and Playalinda. If you are coming to visit us, add it to your agenda. Just remember to have a full tank of gas and some snacks and water, as there are no places to buy food or gas on the Refuge.


Cactus Jack Splash said...

What a lovely photo of the egret. I wish I was at your beach right now...15 degrees here.

Florida Beach Basics said...

I know - I feel guilty, having nice weather while you all are so cold. I hope you get some relief from the bad weather soon. marge

Amanda said...

Are there any seals in Florida?
Love the photos.

Florida Beach Basics said...

Amanda - Sea World has trained seals, and there was once a hockey team (now defunct) called the Florida Seals, but those are the onlyFlorida seals I know about. We love your photos, too! marge