Unique place

We love the ocean around here.

This is just one part of a gorgeous large sculpture by renowned local artist Geoffrey C. Smith, on display in the new Ocean EcoCenter at Florida Oceanographic on Hutchinson Island in Stuart, Florida.

This is a view of the new Ocean EcoCenter from the other side of the Gamefish Lagoon. It opened last July. Read about it here and here.

Inside, there was a lot to learn about. Or you could just flow through and get a quick general impression.

This is a view from the observation deck on top of the center, looking northwest down into the gamefish lagoon. The pavilion on the left side of the photo overlooks the sea turtle enclosures.

Beyond the green of the mangroves is the Indian River Lagoon, most biodiverse estuary in North America.

This photo from the third floor deck does not do justice to what is swimming around in the gamefish lagoon. Just go see for yourself!

The Gamefish Lagoon is a 750,000 gallon saltwater aquarium. It is home to over 20 different fish species, including stingrays and nurse sharks, and 4 non-releasable sea turtles.

More info plus livestream FISHCAM HERE.

View to the northeast. You can catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean a short distance away.

Salt water from the ocean gets pumped into the lagoon.

Here’s a fish from a tank inside the EcoCenter. It is some type of filefish I believe. But this is a bird blog not a fish blog so let’s cut to the chase…

There are nature trails through mangroves out to the Indian River Lagoon. MAP.

The southern section of trails was closed because it was underwater so we went out and back on the northern trail, with a series of boardwalks over the wettest parts.

We came upon a strange little gathering of Tricolored Herons. There were actually five that we spotted here, walking in and out of the shadows, standing on logs.

I have never seen even two Tricolored Herons together at one time! I have seen them with other wading birds, and ducks and anhingas, but never another member of their own species. Breeding season is late spring and summer, I believe, so it’s not that.

I got a good look at the elegant Egretta tricolor.

The Tricolored Heron is a sleek and slender heron adorned in blue-gray, lavender, and white. The white stripe down the middle of its sinuous neck and its white belly set it apart from other dark herons. This fairly small heron wades through coastal waters in search of small fish, often running and stopping with quick turns and starts, as if dancing in a ballet. It builds stick nests in trees and shrubs, often in colonies with other wading birds. It’s common in southern saltmarshes and was once known as the Louisiana Heron.

Three long toes pointing forward and one behind seems to do the trick for herons. It’s the same arrangement as perching birds but their much longer toes are good for spreading their weight out as they walk on soft surfaces.

Also elongated compared to other birds: their bills! Good for harpooning fish.

On the walk back, we passed the northern side of the Gamefish Lagoon where this sea turtle was maneuvering into a shallow sunny spot. I believe it’s one of the Green Turtles at Florida Oceanographic, but I’m not sure if it’s Hank, Abe or Turtwig.

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