February 18, 2012 – Even though we only had one day to travel this weekend (February 18) we knew we wanted to go somewhere. That somewhere happened to be a “day trip” (if you allow for leaving Friday after work and being back home by Saturday night) to just outside Orlando, FL. The destination was once again Merritt Island, since we figured there would still be some interesting birds, and it was the time for the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Our first destination was a pull off just before the visitor’s center to admire a nesting osprey. Then once we reached the visitor’s center we were greeted by two more nesting osprey, as well as a green heron. The heron was balancing on a branch overhanging the water, very carefully hunting so as not to fall in!
Tony did a bit of research and found out the Florida scrub jay could be seen along the Scrub Ridge trail. We didn’t see any jays (this time), though we did find a sapsucker happily searching for bugs.
Next up was a picnic lunch enjoyed by the trailhead to a hammock (we found this spot on our way back towards the visitor’s center; we also found another osprey perched on a power pole). After lunch we set off to explore the trail. First up was fun walking along some train tracks. Next was a not-so-fun realization that there were a lot of spider webs on the trail. But then we found fragrant fruit trees, so things were again looking up. Until Louisa almost walked into a (very brightly colored, turquoise and fuchsia) spider. At that point we headed back to the car and towards Scrub Ridge trail for another round of trying to find the scrub jay.
We went counterclockwise around the trail this time, just to mix things up. Fortunately the weather cooperated and the called-for storms took awhile to materialize, giving us plenty of time to do the walk and get on the road. By the end of the trail we still hadn’t seen the scrub jay when Tony looked to his left and whispered for Louisa to look to her left. Yep, a scrub jay was perched in the top of the tree.
She was making all sorts of chirping and clicking noises; then another scrub jay flew in and landed in a nearby tree. This one was a little more curious and eventually hopped down to the ground and peered at Tony’s shoelace. It also made a variety of calls, including a slightly maniacal sounding “he he he!” By this time a third jay had flown up behind us, and we realized that the birds were flanking us, forming a triangle. Fortunately they decided we were friendly enough and let us pass.