Pine Warbler on a pine tree.
There is a dirt pullout on the east side of Green River Parkway at the Martin/ St. Lucie county line with room for 5 or 6 cars to park. It is right here: LINK to Google map. Most people park there to go for a walk or bike ride on the paved walkway that runs for a few miles along the parkway. But it’s also right near a “secret back way” into the Savannas.
Look carefully after crossing the walkway bridge over the drainage ditch and you will find a gated entrance to a sometimes-overgrown trail that leads to other little-used trails in the southern (Jensen Beach) section of Savannas Preserve State Park. (That section is more easily accessed from Jensen Beach Boulevard, which I recommend for first time visitors or those who want tidier trails.)
You may or may not want to take these trails less traveled, depending on the time of year and your exploring mood. Squish, squish. My progress was slow and careful, but that was fine since I was trying to sneak up on birds.
Pro tip: when you stop and stand still, first look down to make sure you are not standing in an ant mound or close to a snake. Then look around and up.
I was there a few bright December mornings ago and I found some birds like this Red-bellied Woodpecker feasting on holly berries.
Woodpeckers help “plant” holly bushes by spreading the seeds in their droppings. That’s one way to deck the halls.
My trail that morning was next to a wetland. I tuned in to the sounds around me and felt the warmth of the sun in the cool fresh air. This is medicine.
Wild things were near. I’ve always loved the feeling of being surrounded by secret life. What we perceive of it is the tip of the iceberg. See my About page for that poem I love, “Sojourns in the Parallel World.”
I tracked a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher for a while, as he went hunting for small insects and spiders. Catching gnats, another well-named bird.
A tiny, long-tailed bird of broadleaf forests and scrublands, the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher makes itself known by its soft but insistent calls and its constant motion. It hops and sidles in dense outer foliage, foraging for insects and spiders. As it moves, this steely blue-gray bird conspicuously flicks its white-edged tail from side to side, scaring up insects and chasing after them.
The white eye ring is helpful in identifying these little gray birds, along with the busy tail motion.
Another Pine Warbler in a pine tree, where they like to be.
A bird true to its name, the Pine Warbler is common in many eastern pine forests and is rarely seen away from pines. These yellowish warblers are hard to spot as they move along high branches to prod clumps of needles with their sturdy bills.
I notice these birds much more in winter, because there are many more of them … as the northern Pine Warblers migrate south and join the resident Pine Warblers in larger foraging flocks. Favorite food? Pine seeds!
I think the most important quality in a birdwatcher is a willingness to stand quietly and see what comes. Our everyday lives obscure a truth about existence – that at the heart of everything there lies a stillness and a light.
― Lynn Thomson