Monthly Archives: April 2023

Spruce Bluff is home for some

Nesting bird, Florida style.

I was lucky to spot this Sandhill Crane at Spruce Bluff Preserve in Port St. Lucie. It was my first visit to Spruce Bluff and my first nesting sandhill crane.

Spruce Bluff Preserve LOCATION and INFORMATION.

From the parking area at this 97-acre county-owned park, one trail goes north and the other south. I went south.

Next time I will do the self-guided interpretative trail and pay attention to the numbers. This day the theme was Birds and New Place. Just looking, not reading a trail guide.

I walked a dry, sandy trail through pine flatwoods at first.

Then there was a boardwalk over wetlands.

Looking off to the right, I could just make out the form of the crane. Superzoom camera got me closer.

Sandhill Cranes breed in open wetland habitats surrounded by shrubs or trees. They nest in marshes, bogs, wet meadows, prairies, burned-over aspen stands, and other moist habitats, preferring those with standing water.

Nests are simple, mound-like platforms made of marsh plants, grasses, and weeds piled on the ground in marshes or wet meadows. Larger material forms the foundation of the nest while smaller stems or twigs form and line the egg cup. Both parents may gather material from the immediate area and toss it over their shoulders to form a mound, and in an area with emergent aquatic vegetation will form a characteristic vegetation-free “pluck-zone” surrounding the nest.

The female is generally the one to arrange the materials on the mound to form the nest. Their nests may be four to five feet in diameter. Throughout incubation, the incubating adult may add small amounts of material and continually rearrange the nest.

So pleasant to rest my eyes on this scene, after driving through the urban madness – especially Route 1/ Federal Highway. If you live around here, you know what I mean.

Woodsy part of the trail.

I was here the same day I visited River Park Marina and the weather was just perfect, warm and dry and a little breezy. Florida at its friendliest. Since then we have had some, let’s just say, DRAMATIC weather.

But you can’t have the wetlands if you don’t have the wet. And the tornados aren’t usually very big and the hail melts fast in Florida.

A little sad to think that this lovely mix of woods and water, like the nearby “savannas,” is what Port St. Lucie used to be, before the canals and fill-dirt and roads and houses. But that’s how we humans build our nests.

Exploring a new trail, looking for birds, living the dream.

A New Trail A Day For a Year would be a fun blog project. Maybe someday.

Saw palmetto in bloom, a pointy plant.

The trail circles around a prehistoric Indian mound. You can’t see it very well, and you must not climb up on it, but allow yourself a spooky little feeling of a lost past.

Before the county bought this preserve, 60 homes were planned and platted for this site.

Save more, save more! counties, states and nations.

On the side of the trail where the land rose up to the top of the mound, a Great Blue Heron swept down from the sky and landed on a pine limb.

I will visit this place again.

“To be green” in the woods at River Park Marina, PSL

Gray Catbird on an island in the St. Lucie River.

I visited River Park Marina in Port St. Lucie a few days ago. It’s a county park with a boat ramp, picnic pavilion, playground and fishing boardwalks on the North Fork of the St. Lucie River.


It also has a short trail through the woods with live oaks, cabbage palms, and a thick and varied understory.

It’s an eBird HotSpot with a decent number of bird sightings, though not for me that day – but I will be back now that I know about this place.

The trail winds along near the water and you can see across the river in many spots.

The area is part of the North Fork, St. Lucie River Aquatic Preserve.

Nestled into the urban sprawl of Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie and Stuart is a quiet and scenic retreat – perfect for viewing manatees, birds, turtles and alligators from a canoe or kayak.

Blue-headed Vireo with a backdrop of Spanish moss. These migratory songbirds heading north soon for breeding season.

Vireo is a genus of small passerinebirds restricted to the New World. Vireos typically have dull greenish plumage (hence the name, from Latin virere, “to be green”), but some are brown or gray on the back and some have bright yellow underparts.

Virere, “to be green.” Nice.

Wildflowers along the trail. This is a Climbing Aster. It lives in woods and wetlands in the coastal plain from Florida to North Carolina.

The trail had a magical, peaceful, old Florida feeling about it. Good for the soul!

River view.

The cabbage palms get really tall near this river, I’ve noticed.

Is it because they are well watered? Or competing for sunlight?

The trail is there-and-back, not looping, and on the way back I saw my little catbird friend again.

Back at the parking area, I noticed a pair of nesting Ospreys on a platform.

More Limpkins

Limpkin atop a cypress tree, Green River.

I found a nice little summary of my brown-feathered wetland friends on the Florida Museum website: Five Facts: Limpkins in Florida.

1. Limpkins are named after the way they walk and sound. These leggy birds seem to limp as they walk across uneven wetland surfaces — hence the name limpkins.

2. Florida is the northern edge of their range. Limpkins live in wetlands in a great deal of Central and South America east of the Andes, the Caribbean, and parts of Mexico and Florida.

They are mostly year-round residents, with local movements but no long migrations. They have been reported recently in Georgia and Louisiana, indicating their range may be expanding.

I spotted the Limpkin on top of the cypress from the berm along the wetlands.

Wonderful to see the cypress greening again, and the wetlands recharging with water as we have been getting our first real rain in a long time. Huge crashing purple-and-green thunderstorm the other evening around dinnertime kinda freaked us all out, as it’s been months since we had one.

Spring and early summer is my favorite season in Florida, as the human world calms down and the plant and animal world comes alive.

iPhone photo of a gator at Green River a few days before.

Apparently alligators are a bit dormant in cooler winter and really like when the temps are consistently back in the 82 to 92 degree range. Mating season begins soon.

Limpkins are also thriving in Florida, and their population increasing. It’s an unusual twist on what normally happens to animal “specialists” who eat mostly one thing, as Limpkins eat apple snails.

Their apple-snail diet is a major factor that determines where limpkins live, which could explain the recent increase of populations in some areas of Florida. There’s a new invasive snail moving into Florida, Pomacea maculata, the island apple snail. They are abundant and a popular meal for limpkins. More food means more birds.

What about people? Can we eat the escargot too?

you CAN eat apple snails, but you should do so very carefully, because they could actually kill you.

A quick look at Bird Island in early spring

Pink bird. Roseate Spoonbill on the sandy shores of Bird Island.

Bird Island, view from a friend’s boat Sunday a week ago.

It’s nesting season on this bird-favorite mangrove island in the Indian River Lagoon, just off Sewall’s Point. We went out to get a look in the late afternoon.

We saw Brown Pelicans, spoonbills and a Great Blue Heron on the small beach.

A small squad of pelicans soared past the treetops, where Wood Storks are nesting.

Wood Storks are the stars of the show on Bird Island because there are so many of them. I was going to attempt a count for eBird but it would be like counting stars in the sky.

Wood Storks are mostly white, with bare heads and black feathers under their wings. We see them in the trees in Sewall’s Point at this time of year, breaking off sticks to carry to the island and build nests.

Wood Storks in the mangroves.

Also nesting, but in far fewer numbers: Roseate Spoonbills.

It was very windy, as it often is at this time of year, and the boat kept drifting, making it a challenge for our friend to hold a good viewing spot. So we didn’t linger too long.

So much activity!

Besides Wood Storks and spoonbills, there were a few vultures, assorted herons, and some frigatebirds.

Wood Stork wingspan: nearly 9 and a half feet!