… 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.
This is a Purple Gallinule, in bright morning sun.
Lurking in the marshes of the extreme southeastern U.S. lives one of the most vividly colored birds in all of North America. Purple Gallinules combine cherry red, sky blue, moss green, aquamarine, indigo, violet, and school-bus yellow, a color palette that blends surprisingly well with tropical and subtropical wetlands. Watch for these long-legged, long-toed birds stepping gingerly across water lilies and other floating vegetation as they hunt frogs and invertebrates or pick at tubers.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Purple_Gallinule/overview
We saw this bird and others at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in southeast Florida yesterday morning. It’s a piece of the northern Everglades that has been preserved for wildlife and lovers of wild places. The main entrance is in Boynton Beach.
It’s cool how a bird this colorful can also appear camouflaged.
Also notable: the amazing feet.
Related: the Common Gallinule.
The Common Gallinule swims like a duck and walks atop floating vegetation like a rail with its long and slender toes. This boldly marked rail has a brilliant red shield over the bill and a white racing stripe down its side. It squawks and whinnies from thick cover in marshes and ponds from Canada to Chile, peeking in and out of vegetation. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Gallinule/overview
This one was noisy, with its “squawks and whinnies.”
We also observed Florida’s most famous large reptile.
We stared at the alligator and he didn’t blink an eye, move, or even look back at us. “Whatever,” is the motto of the gator at rest.
When this old world starts a getting me down And people are just too much for me to face I’ll climb way up to the top of the stairs And all my cares just drift right into space
On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be And there the world below don’t bother me No, no
So when I come home feeling tired and beat I go up where the air is fresh and sweet I get far away from the hustling crowd And all that rat race noise down in the street
On the roof, that’s the only place I know Look at the city, baby Where you just have to wish to make it so Let’s go up on the roof
And at night the stars, they put on a show for free And darling, you can share it all with me That’s what I say, keep on telling you The right smack dab in the middle of town I’ve found a paradise that’s trouble proof And if this old world starts a getting you down There’s room enough for two
Up on the roof, up on the roof, up on the roof oh now Everything is all right, everything is all right Come on
Put down what you’re doing tonight and climb up the stairs with me and see We got the stars up above us and the city lights below, oh Up on my roof now
I feel like I don’t take enough pictures of pelicans relative to how often I see them, which is pretty much daily because I live in Sewall’s Point, a peninsula connected by bridges to the mainland and a barrier island (Hutchinson).
So, here: a bounty of Pelicanus occidentalis.
Also known as a pod, a pouch, a scoop or a squadron of pelicans.
An unmistakable bird of coastal waters. Groups of Brown Pelicans fly low over the waves in single file, flapping and gliding in unison. Their feeding behavior is spectacular, as they plunge headlong into the water in pursuit of fish. The current abundance of this species in the United States represents a success story for conservationists, who succeeded in halting the use of DDT and other persistent pesticides here; as recently as the early 1970s, the Brown Pelican was seriously endangered.
We were stopping by the Fort Pierce Inlet at the north end of Hutchinson Island on a Sunday drive. It was too windy and rough to walk out on the jetty.
So we walked west along the south-side inlet shoreline to see what we could see.
The inlet connects the Indian River Lagoon with the Atlantic Ocean. There is no development at the ocean end of the inlet on either side. The north side is preserved as a state park.
Fishing was the main focus, of humans and birds alike.
Fish were feeding and breaking on the surface all over the place.
Here’s a Double-crested Cormorant, popping up from underwater fishing.
Forages by diving from the air, from as high as 60′ above water, plunging into water headfirst and coming to surface with fish in bill. Tilts bill down to drain water out of pouch, then tosses head back to swallow. Will scavenge at times and will become tame, approaching fishermen for handouts.https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/brown-pelican#
They often look like they’re crash landing face first into salt water.
This guy had a fish on his line and was steadily working it closer and ready to gaff it when a pelican tried to steal it. He waved his gaffe and the pelican backed off, but not before trying to dive underwater and grab it.
View toward the north side jetty. Lots of birds, lots of fish.
And lots of wind.
Sometimes I look at pelicans and wonder how they stay in the air. I mean, their wings are really big, but so are their heads and bills. So big.
But they are master flyers. I like when they soar down low over the water to use what human aviators (like my husband) call “ground effect” to stay effortlessly aloft.
This juvenile Brown Pelican is banded. You can just barely see the band on the near leg, which is tucked up so nice and aerodynamically.
It was a good day for fishing, even for the humans.
I think it’s a Crevalle Jack. This man kept his fish.
I have eaten this kind of jack, very, very fresh, about 20 minutes after my husband caught it from the bridge near our house. He filleted it into chunks, I marinated it for about 10 minutes in lime juice, then cooked it in a cast iron pan with butter and Cajun seasonings. Served over white rice, it was delicious. It has dark red flesh like a tuna.
Snook (a fish I had never heard of until I moved here) are one of the most beloved fish for inshore Florida fishermen. But snook are not always in season (including right now): FWC regulations.
So gaze longingly at the snook and go catch a jack.
Fort Pierce Inlet is a nice destination, easily accessible, and a great place to walk and bird-watch.
I saw this Yellow-throated Vireo yesterday morning at the edge of the mangroves in Indian Riverside Park, Jensen Beach.
Such a pure, delicious yellow.
A bird of open deciduous forests and edges, the Yellow-throated Vireo is one of the most colorful member of its family. Not only does this bird have a bright yellow throat, it looks as if it’s wearing bright yellow spectacles.
Roseate Spoonbill chicks don’t have a spoon-shaped bill immediately after hatching. When they are 9 days old the bill starts to flatten, by 16 days it starts to look a bit more spoonlike, and by 39 days it is nearly full size.
In keeping with their overall color scheme, their eyes are reddish pink too.
Pink bird in morning sun.
The color comes from the foods they eat as they sweep their bills from side to side and sift for invertebrates, especially crustaceans like shrimp whose shells containing carotenoids that turn the spoonbill’s feathers pink.
Carotenoids, also called tetraterpenoids, are yellow, orange, and red organic pigments that are produced by plants and algae, as well as several bacteria and fungi. Carotenoids give the characteristic color to pumpkins, carrots, corn, tomatoes, canaries, flamingos, and daffodils.
I have a spoonbill on my Florida license plate, like the sample above. It’s a specialty plate that donates to the Everglades Trust. The money is used for “conservation and protection of the natural resources and abatement of water pollution in the Everglades.”
A pair of Sandhill Cranes walked up onto the dike in front of us yesterday morning as we were looping back from a nice bird walk (see egret pics too).
My husband John and I were walking where the retention ponds are located just off Green River Parkway in Jensen Beach. We’ve been going there a lot lately.
Whether stepping singly across a wet meadow or filling the sky by the hundreds and thousands, Sandhill Cranes have an elegance that draws attention. These tall, gray-bodied, crimson-capped birds breed in open wetlands, fields, and prairies across North America.
We see cranes often in this area of Jensen Beach, with a section of the Savannas Preserve just across the parkway. They also like to visit bird feeders in people’s yards around here, or walk along roadsides.
They are so big, which such magnificent wings.
They mate for life.
When we arrived at Green River I told John, “I’ll be happy if I get a good photo or two of a Sandhill Crane today.”