Revisiting The Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

After I visited the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida’s Space Coast last month while on vacation, I got an idea before I even got back to Savannah. My parents really enjoy visiting the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge’s wildlife drive, but haven’t been able to since it’s been closed for repairs to hurricane damage from a few years ago. Merritt Island’s Black Point Wildlife Drive seemed like something right up their alley, so I made plans to take them down for a visit as a gift for their anniversary and my mother’s birthday. We went down on Tuesday afternoon and stayed in Titusville overnight before visiting the refuge, having lunch at Dixie Crossroads, and then heading back to Savannah. It was a wonderful trip enjoyed by all.

Tuesday morning turned out to be a chilly (for the Space Coast) and windy morning, but there was still plenty to be seen. Just as I did in January, they got to see their first Reddish Egret (we actually saw two!). We also saw plenty of Tricolored Herons, Great Egrets, and Snowy Egrets as well as Anhingas, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Ibis, and Kingfishers. We thought we were going to come up dry on ducks, but we finally saw some Blue-Winged Teal and Ring-Necked Ducks in the last third of the wildlife drive. It wasn’t the best conditions for seeing alligators, but we also saw several taking advantage of the sunny morning to warm up.

While driving along the wildlife drive, we got to see and hear something you don’t get to catch very often: an F-104 Starfighter landing at the Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility. Starfighter Aerospace has been testing one of their F-104GMs at the Shuttle Landing Facility recently: I never thought we might have the chance to hear or see it, but it landed at the SLF as STARFIGHTER 1 (TF-104GM, N991SF, Starfighters Aerospace) on 128.550 with NASA Tower. It was beautiful in its all-black paint scheme, but unfortunately, I was close enough to get any photos of it.

It also turned out to be a good couple of days for range activity at a number of the military ranges near Florida’s Space Coast. Pinecastle Range was active on 289.200 and 225.350, Avon Park Range was active on 276.600, and the Live Oak MOA was active on 254.275. KING 41 (HC-130J, 39th RQS) was heard on 269.375, Patrick AFB Tower and on 251.900 for para drop operations. One of the 301st RQS HH-60Gs was active on its ops frequency 255.500 doing hoist ops.

It also sounded like the windy weather conditions were aggravating brush fires as well. Both the Seminole County P25 TRS and the Volusia County EDADCS TRS were very busy with brush fire communications from their Fire Departments. The Florida Forestry Commission for the Orlando (159.270 PL 91.5) and Bunnell (159.450 PL 100.0) areas were very active with brush fire communications as well.

During my vacation in January, let’s just say that I wasn’t pleased with the hotel I booked reservations in and I’ll leave it at that. For this trip, I booked reservations for the Holiday Inn Kennedy Space Center in Titusville and couldn’t have been happier. It was very clean, very comfortable, the staff was friendly, and it has a reasonably priced and good restaurant and bar inside. On future trips to the Space Coast, it’s quite likely that’s where I’ll be staying and I highly recommend it if you’ll be traveling to the area.

This was the second time, I’ve eaten at Dixie Crossroads in Titusville, and both times, it was excellent. The first time, in January, I had the grilled catfish and fried shrimp combination and it was excellent. This time, I had the shrimp and grits and was surprised that when it came out it was made with rock shrimp instead of the usual brown shrimp. It, too, was wonderful. The food and the service is great and the prices are reasonable and it’s not all that far from the Merritt Island NWR and the Canaveral National Seashore.

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