Heres the thing to do at Floridas Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge: Get out of the car. And listen. At first, you notice just the tick-tick-tick of your cooling engine and the whisper of the Atlantic breeze that tickles your face. Then, perhaps, you hear the ascending scree of an osprey in flight, circling purposefully in search of a fish to snatch from the water. Or maybe the rasp of the jaunty blue Florida scrub jay, a long-tailed bird threatened with extinction because of habitat loss. Songbirds begin their musical chat. Stilt-legged wading birds splash in the shallows. You become aware of the sounds all around yourustling, chirping, buzzing (bring insect repellent); the gentle lapping of wavelets; and, if youre close to the Atlantic, the hissing rumble of surf. Gradually you realize just how much is going on. Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge amounts to a teeming metropolis, a bustling New York City for things with wings, fins, or four legs. The refuge stretches 23 miles from Mosquito Lagoon south to the Canaveral Air Station at Cape Canaveral. It covers more than 140,000 acres, much of which lies within sight of the giant NASA space shuttle launchpads.
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