We traveled south to get away from the frigid temperatures, to see Bill's great niece run in a marathon, and to photograph some beautiful birds. During this trip, we spent a lot of time photographing everything in sight!.
Located in Scotland Neck, North Carolina, this facility features hundreds of amazing birds. Many, like the ducks, are in fairly accessible ponds, while others are easily viewed, but not easily photographed. The facility also features a "Landing Zone" where you can feed parakeets and flamingoes. Needless to say, I took full advantage of this, and enjoyed this great opportunity. We stayed at the Scotland Neck Inn, a pleasant motel with good accommodations. If you head for Scotland Neck, do not miss the delicious food at Le Caseta, an excellent Italian restaurant. Visit our GALLERY to view the photos.
Jacksonville Beach and St. Augustine
We continued south to Jacksonville, where we got a brief stop on the beach. There, we discovered black skimmers hanging out with seagulls and shore birds including turnstones and dunlins. We drove south to St. Augustine, to enjoy the St. Augustine Alligator Farm and the Fountain of Youth. The Alligator Farm is a terrific place to visit, even if you aren't interested in photographing birds. It offers excellent exhibits with hundreds of alligators, other crocodilians, lemurs, exotic birds, and lots of other animals. We went for the wading bird rookery that surrounds the main alligator lake. While we were early for the mating season, the birds were arriving, and we got lots of shots of roseate spoonbills, great egrets, and ibises, as well as both varieties of night herons.
The Fountain of youth was historically important, and we found lots of photo opportunities there, too, especially the beautiful peacocks. Catch our photos on this GALLERY.
A terrific place to eat in St. Augustine is Bonez, a newly opened BBQ spot with great service and excellent food.
Merritt Island and Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuges
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, in Melbourne FL, is a gem! It offers dozens of species of wading birds, ducks, shore birds, pelicans, raptors, alligators, and maybe even manatees. (we didn't see any, but in Spring and Fall they are supposed to be there.) Feeders located at the visitors' center offer opportunities to get photos of male and female painted buntings. Most of the other birds were easily accessible for photographs from the loop road, and there are several trails for hiking.
On the way home, we stopped at Harris Neck NWR, located south of Savannah, GA. This facility has lots of potential, but the day we were there it was freezing cold, so the birds were all huddled in trees--and we huddled in the car! Our photos of these refuges are available in this GALLERY.