St. Lucie Audubon Society

Reddish Egrets can really get into hunting for food.



For the third year in a row we arrived at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge to the sound of heavy gunfire. It was, once again, the opening day of duck hunting season. Consequently, ducks find little “refuge” in the Refuge, and we do not find the usual number of ducks we might expect on this trip. Nevertheless, it was a spectacular, “blue-bird” day, and 15 participants, led by Hart and Jewel Rufe, found a combined total of 71 species of birds at Merritt Island and Viera.

High-lights included: a long, interminable line of Double-crested Cormorants; followed by a similar, albeit shorter, line of American White Pelicans at Parrish Park; where the expected Common Loons; a lone Horned Grebe; and the unexpected female Red-breasted Merganser were also found. Black Skimmers along the shore allowed approach to within feet before finally flying.

On the Black Point Drive part of the trip, Reddish Egrets performed their typical feeding dance, and the American Coots, which were mostly absent in the refuge during last year’s trip, were present in large numbers, forming several very extensive “rafts.” American Avocets and Roseate Spoonbills also were present in good numbers.

At the Rest Stop, (always one of the most anticipated breaks on the trip after the early morning McDonald’s coffee) a few of the participants were treated to an accommodating Palm Warbler doing battle with an unaccommodating large green caterpillar. The final bird of the MINWR portion of the day’s excursion was a Great Horned Owl sitting large and proud on the same nest site where it has been the past two years.

The group then journeyed south to the Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera, a waste water treatment facility renowned for its bird life, where we started by searching a field for several reported Wilson ’s Snipe. We finally found one with great effort, when a Northern Harrier flew over and about 30 Wilson’s Snipe took flight right out of the field where we had been searching. A Limpkin with a snail, an American Bittern, Loggerhead Shrike, and a hovering Belted Kingfisher were some of the other highlights at Viera. Unfortunately, the “Click Ponds” at Viera were closed and we were unable to add probably 10 additional species that are typically found there. The day concluded with eight die-hards enjoying a day-ending repast at Mimi’s Café, which is becoming a SLAS MINWR/Viera trip tradition..

Report and photos by Hart Rufe

(click for larger versions)

American Avocet

Belted Kingfisher

Black Skimmer

Caspian Tern


Black Point Drive / Parrish Park / Sand Point Park
Ducks, Geese, and Swans: American Wigeon;  Northern Shoveler; Northern Pintail; Lesser Scaup; Red-Breasted Merganser; Blue-winged Teal; Hooded Merganser
Loons: Common Loon
Grebes: Pied Billed Grebe, Horned Grebe
Storks: Wood Stork
Cormorants: Double-crested Cormorant
Pelicans:  American White Pelican; Brown Pelican
Herons, Bitterns and Allies:  Reddish Egret; Great Egret;  Great Blue Heron; Tricolored Heron;  Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron
Ibises and Spoonbills: Roseate Spoonbill; Glossy Ibis; White Ibis
New World Vultures: Black Vulture; turkey vulture
Osprey: Osprey
Hawks, Kites, Eagles and Allies: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier; Red-tailed Hawk
Rails, Gallinules and Coots: Common Gallinule; American Coot;
Lapwings and Plovers:  Killdeer; Black-bellied Plover;
Stilts and Avocets: American Avocet
Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies: Willet; Ruddy Turnstone
Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers: : Caspian Tern; Laughing Gull, Ring-Billed Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Forster’s Tern; Black Skimmer
Pigeons & Doves: Rock Pigeon; Eurasian collared Dove; Mourning Dove
Typical Owls: Great Horned Owl
Kingfishers: Belted Kingfisher
Jays and Crows: Blue jay; Fish Crow
Mimics: Northern Mockingbird
Starlings: European Starling (en route)
Blackbirds: Common Grackle; Boat-tailed Grackle
Wood Warblers: Palm Warbler
Old world Sparrows: House sparrow (en route)

Viera Wetlands
Ducks, Geese, and Swans: Blue-winged Teal; Hooded Merganser; Ring-necked Duck;
Grebes: Pied Billed Grebe
Darters: Anhinga
Storks: Wood Stork
Cormorants: Double-crested Cormorant
Herons, Bitterns and Allies:  American Bittern; Great Egret;  Great Blue Heron; Tricolored Heron;  Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Green Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron
Ibises and Spoonbills: Glossy Ibis; White Ibis
New World Vultures: Black Vulture; Turkey vulture
Hawks, Kites, Eagles and Allies: American: American Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier
Limpkins: Limpkin
Cranes: Sandhill Crane (en route)
Sandpipers, Phalaropes, and Allies: Wilson’s Snipe
Rails, Gallinules and Coots: Common Gallinule; American Coot;
Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers:: Caspian Tern
Kingfishers: Belted Kingfisher
Woodpeckers & Allies: Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Tyrant Flycatchers:  Eastern Phoebe
Shrikes: Loggerhead Shrike
Cardinals: Northern Cardinal
Blackbirds: Common Grackle; Boat-tailed Grackle; Red-winged Blackbird;
Thrushes: American Robin
Wood-Warblers: Yellow-rumped Warbler; Palm Warbler
Sparrows, Towhees, and Allies: Savannah Sparrow

Great Horned Owl

Lesser Scaup, female


Palm Warbler

Ring-necked Ducks

Roseate Spoonbill


Wilson's Snipe