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.
This is a post about getting close to Wood Storks. But not too close. It’s the beginning of nesting season and we don’t want to pester them too much.
We borrowed a small boat from our boat club and heading out of Manatee Pocket towards the Five Corners then into the Indian River Lagoon.
On the way out of the Pocket, we saw dolphins. You can just see a fin in the center of the above photo.
The water in the Indian River Lagoon was clean and clear and beautiful! We liked the name of this trawler, heading north on the Intracoastal Waterway… “Quite Nice.”
Just east of Sewall’s Point, there is a small island popular with roosting and nesting water birds and wading birds.
Nesting season has begun for the Wood Storks and this is a favorite spot for them in the region.
Wood Storks occur only in a few areas in the United States, so to get a look at one, head to a wetland preserve or wildlife area along the coast in Florida, South Carolina, or Georgia.
Boats are supposed to stay outside these signs, and we did. So bring your binoculars and telephoto lens.
Other birds that like Bird Island include the Brown Pelican and the Roseate Spoonbill.
Wood Storks are gangly – a little over three feet tall with a wing span of five feet. They drop their legs and feet forward like this as they near a landing spot.
A Wood Stork turning for Bird Island, with the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island beyond.
Roseate Spoonbills are in the air too.
I could loiter in this spot for hours… although an east wind can bring a strong scent of bird poop.
Great Blue Heron on the sandy beach.
“Look out below. Here I come, everybody!”
Wood Storks nest in trees above standing water. They build nests in cypress swamps, in oaks in flooded impoundments, in mangroves, and in flooded areas with black gum and Australian pine. Almost any tree or shrub will do as long as standing water is present.
The habit of nesting in groups is believed to provide better survival against predators in several ways. Many colonies are situated in locations that are naturally free of predators. In other cases, the presence of many birds means there are more individuals available for defense. Also, synchronized breeding leads to such an abundance of offspring as to satiate predators.
For seabirds, colonies on islands have an obvious advantage over mainland colonies when it comes to protection from terrestrial predators. Other situations can also be found where bird colonies avoid predation.
I think the majority of the nesting Wood Storks in Florida are found in freshwater habitats like cypress swamps and in the Everglades. We are lucky to have a colony here on our coast.
Despite the myth that Wood Storks mate for life, pairs form at the breeding colony and stay together only for a single breeding season. Males initially are hostile to the female, but once he accepts her into the territory he starts preening her and offering her sticks.
I have never noticed Wood Storks feeding in the waters immediately around Bird Island, but I have seen them many times at freshwater ponds and marshes further inland, or in ditches along roadsides.
Some days they soar overhead on thermals like vultures or raptors.
This stork is carrying a stick back to the island. I’ve seen them “perched” awkwardly in treetops in south Sewall’s Point, noisily breaking off branches.
Males and females gather sticks from the surrounding areas. Together they build a large, bulky stick nest 3–5 feet wide. They line the nest with greenery that eventually gets covered in guano, which helps hold the nest together. Nest building typically takes 2–3 days, but the pair continues to make improvements throughout the nesting period.
We were birdwatching, but then we got a chance to do some fishwatching!
I think a tarpon was chasing these mullet. I saw a big one near our boat right before this.
Beyond is a house in the Sewall’s Point neighborhood called The Archipelago.
There are usually fish here in this little corner close to shore, but this is the first time I’ve seen a show like this.
The Great Egret was flying near the island. Note how they fold up their necks in flight, unlike Wood Storks that fly with their necks extended.
White Ibis passed the island in a V formation (necks extended).
This Brown Pelican (neck folded) passed close to our boat. Wingspan of these birds range from 6.5 to 7.5 feet!
The water was so clear, we could see underwater creatures moving here and there. This was one of two pair of Spotted Eagle Rays cruising around together, over a shallow sandy bottom.
After Bird Island, we wanted to go ashore on one of the other mangrove islands in the lagoon. We passed this one, that we have nicknamed Hot Dog Island for a couple of picnics we’ve had there.
We went ashore on Boy Scout Island (it’s real name, locally) and spent an hour swimming, exploring, idly casting a line without catching anything except rays – the kind from the sun.
The water is so clean and beautiful now, since we haven’t had any polluted and algae-laden discharges from Lake Okeechobee in a while.
… to a strange and wonderful place known as Bird Island. It’s very close to home.
This Magnificent Frigatebird knows the way.
Black frigatebirds on lower branches, white Wood Storks above.
The storks are the most numerous nesting birds at this time of year on this small mangrove island in the Indian River Lagoon that’s just off our peninsular town of Sewall’s Point.
Frigatebirds don’t nest here, they just roost, I’ve been told. But I’m keeping an eye on that situation!
We took a boat out on Tuesday, March 17, late afternoon with the newest member of the family, Ruby the 10-week-old German shepherd. It was her first boat ride and she was great! (We are members of a boat club in Manatee Pocket, about a 20 minute ride to Bird Island.)
Brown Pelicans had reserved their own roosting and nesting spots in one section of the canopy.
Big wings, big bill.
Wood Storks flew close to the boat.
Very common sight in Sewall’s Point at this time of year, as they fly over on their way to Bird Island, sometimes even stopping in our trees to break beaches for nesting material.
Peachy pink feet visible in this photo, as well as some color under the wings.
Speaking of color, the White Ibis have more intensely colored bills and feet in breeding season.
I am so glad this island was designated a wildlife area.
A Great Blue Heron among the Wood Storks. Looks like a Little Blue Heron mixed in there too.
Ruby was watching them too.
White Ibis flying over. They don’t stop on this island – they have their own on the other side of the Intracoastal Waterway.
White Ibis zoomed in.
My husband’s favorite bird was this Fish Crow perched on the sign, as if to draw attention to its important information!
Wood Stork coming in for a landing.
“Honey, I’m home!”
“Great to see you, gimme a smooch!”
I’m looking forward to getting out to Bird Island again later in the season, when the chicks pop up.