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Florida Guide > Miscellaneous

In search of the Florida Scrub Jay

On our most recent visit to Orlando we took along my sister and brother-in- law who were very much into the natural habitats of the many species of animals, reptiles and birds that Florida has to offer. We, on the other hand, had got rather used to the more man-made attractions of Disney, SeaWorld and the like that we needed to come up with a compromise that would suit us all.

Our relatives had already left us for a three-day excursion to the Everglades National Park, which they thought was absolutely wonderful, but now was the time to enjoy some quality time together. After studying the map for a little while we came upon the idea to visit the Space Center at Cape Canaveral and then go on to explore the wildlife at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge which was also the home of a bird my brother-in-law was desperate to see…. the Florida Scrub Jay, a long tailed blue bird with white patches in the wings and tail, which can only be found in Central Florida. So armed with our Florida Road Atlas and a comprehensive book on Florida birds we set off for the Atlantic coast.

Being of a similar age to us, our relatives remembered the glory days of space exploration and moon landings back in the 60’s and 70’s so thoroughly enjoyed their time at Kennedy but now was the time to go in search of the Florida Scrub Jay.

Because of security restrictions on the NASA space site access to the Wildlife Refuge is via Titusville so it was back and forth over the Indian River which took us about half an hour. Then with armed with binoculars and bird book we set about finding the Scrub Jay.

A couple of hours later we had enjoyed the unexpected company of a couple of manatees, seen numerous Osprey nests and spotted a Bald Eagle, but despite a few false alarms no Scrub Jays. It was now late into the afternoon and, with some reluctance, our relatives agreed it was time to head back to Orlando. We were doing around forty miles an hour along the Indian River Scenic Highway when a high-pitched cry from the back seat yelled ‘there’s one’. A quick look in the rear view mirror revealed a clear road behind so the brakes were jammed on and the car gently reversed to where the bird was seen. By now we were all very quiet with anticipation as my brother-in-law spotted the bird through his binoculars, checked the book to ensure the markings were accurate and then whispered ‘that’s it’. Each of us took turns in looking through the binoculars and sure enough there was a Florida Blue Jay perched obligingly on a branch less than twenty feet away. With cameras at the ready we were able to take a number of snaps before it tired of our company and flew off.

My brother-in-law was ecstatic that he had seen such an endangered species and had the photographic evidence as proof. Now this experience may not turn me into a regular birdwatcher but it did give me an insight into how pleasurable it can be…and if I’m honest we all enjoyed the experience, and it’s something we would definitely do again.

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Page added on: 30 July 2008
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