Ritch Grissom Viera Wetlands
A hop skip and jump off of I-95 at Wickham Road near Rockledge, Florida is one little known Florida treasure, the Ritch Grissom Viera Wetlands. This is a Brevard County run facility that consists of four water management cells on 200 acres that are divided by dikes that you can easily walk, ride or drive.
Be prepared for open sun as there is little to no shade along the dikes. You could spend as little as a half hour if you were to race through the park, but a slow meandering pace is well worth the time. Best to allow for a couple hours to get the most from the visit.
Although a very popular site, some days you can be all alone here, while other times the dikes are busy with cars, long lenses hanging out the window. Be considerate of fellow birders and pull your vehicle well to the side to keep to let others pass.
The site is good almost any time of year but wintering waterfowl and migration are peak times. Avoid the site after heavy rains as the dirt tracks get rather muddy and often the park is closed. The park is open sunrise to sunset.
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A short list of birds readily seen and photographed at the Viera Wetlands include Moorhen, Grebes, Osprey, Great Blue Heron, Grackles, Egrets and Warblers. At times Telephoto Florida has seen Hooded Mergansers, Bald Eagles, Northern Harries, and Roseate Spoonbills as well as snakes and a family of otters.
When asked "Where should I bird on the East Coast of Florida?", Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island always come up. Both sites can easily be combined in a day trip.
Spend the morning at one and the afternoon or evening at the other. There are plenty of places in between to fill in the day. The area is part of the Space Coast, and is near Cape Canaveral. One could easily make base camp in Cocoa Beach, Titusville or even Orlando, although that would be about an hour's drive.
If you are lucky enough to be in Cocoa for a cruise or in town for the Washington National Spring Training, and looking for a quick day trip, the Viera Wetlands could well fit the bill. Take Wickham Road west till it ends and you are there.
Definitely worth a stop if you are driving on I- 95 anywhere near the Cocoa Beach/Melbourne area.
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