February 2, 2013 – What to do in the middle of winter in Boston, MA? Head to Orlando, FL – warm, sunny, and great for spotting winter birds. The adventure began at 3:30 on Saturday 02 February. Fortunately, traffic to Boston Logan was light that early in the morning, and we made good time to the airport. We were also fortunate to beat the rush through security – apparently they had 2 lanes for all of A terminal until after 5am (we only knew this because there were about 5 people who ran to catch the plane; at least all of them were glad that the plane waited for them).
The flight was uneventful, as was getting the rental car. Well, apart from the older man who somehow drove his private car into the car return garage. As with any Orlando weekend trip, we made a quick getaway from the city itself to check out some of the more natural destinations within a few hours away. This time, we decided a trip to Merritt Island to check out the ocean and the wide variety of birds that call the island home. Along the way we stopped for a late breakfast/early lunch at a little diner called Country Cookin’ Diner.
The diner doesn’t look like much from the outside – we actually drove by it – and the ambiance is old-school formica and soda fountain tables inside. The food, however, is fantastic. The chicken fried steak with gravy, home fries, eggs and a biscuit was some of the best chicken fried steak we’ve had. You also can’t go wrong with biscuits and gravy. The coffee was fresh, hot, and decently strong. We’d definitely be back any time we’re in the area.
Once we reached Merritt Island we stopped to watch an osprey flying, and a few dozen coots swimming. At the visitor center we took the short boardwalk trail around the pond, and saw a few gators and a turtle. We also spent some time camped out by the bird feeders, and were rewarded with a few female and one male painted bunting. By that point we decided the trip was a success and anything else was just a bonus.
The bonus material included a hike by a hammock trail, where we saw an Eastern Meadowlark popping its head up in a meadow about 10 yards from us. It kept popping its head up and then ducking back down.
By this time it was mid afternoon, and Canaveral National Seashore was waiting for us. After a walk along the ocean we headed towards the hotel for dinner at High Tide Harrys. The beers were good, and the seafood was excellent; if gumbo, shrimp, or scallops are on the menu, we highly recommend all three. Dinner was so good, actually, that we went back Sunday night to watch some of the Super Bowl and get dinner.