Driving slowly past the entry area on Black Point Wildlife Drive, we spotted a number of cars pulled off the roadway ahead. As we turned the corner, we could see why. Dozens of Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, a handful of Wood Storks and, on the perimeter, a few Great Blue Herons filled the marshy area. Photographers of all types were lining the roadside with everything from point and shoot cameras to equipment which probably cost as much as our Honda CRV. The seven-mile auto trail is the only fee area of the Refuge, with a $5 entry charge.
First founded in August 1963, the Wildlife Refuge will be celebrating its 50th Anniversary this November 2-9 with a variety of activities over the week. The Refuge consists of 140,000 acres, which shares a boundary with NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The diverse habitats within the Refuge provide homes to over 500 species of wildlife and over 1000 species of plants.
Visiting during the right time of year can provide numerous unique sightings for avid birders and photographers, as well as, the casual Floridian tourist. The bird season falls between October and April, with the peak of that season between December and February. Early in the day, or late in the day, are the best viewing times. Since the Refuge is open from sunrise to sunset, you can slip into observation areas almost as early as the birds.
The Visitor Information Center is open 8-4:30 during the week and 9-5 on the weekend. The VC provides a 20-minute film about the Refuge, and there is a short trail behind the building. A sign-up book at the VC allows visitors to notate the birds and wildlife they have spotted. This can be a good reference for persons entering the park for the day, to see what has been sighted and where.
Each January, the Refuge hosts the Annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival, which attracts thousands for a wide range of opportunities to take workshops with top-notch photographers and birders. For more info on the Festival go to: www.SpaceCoastBirdingandWildlifeFestival.org