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!
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.
A pair of Ospreys has been trying to build a nest on top of this light pole at the Rio-Jensen skate park on Dixie Highway in Jensen Beach, FL… but the sticks keep falling off.
I’m keeping an eye on them to see if they figure it out.
Red dot is the location of the potential nest, zoom in for close up.
Great location, close to many fish hawk fishing spots in the Stuart/ Jensen Beach area of Martin County including the St. Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon, Atlantic Ocean, and a variety of lakes and wetland ponds.
Just beyond the skate park are the ballfields at Langford Park and these fortunate Ospreys scored the only nesting platform I could spot on one of many light poles.
They are on the furthest light pole in the center of this picture, taken early yesterday morning.
There was an Osprey perched on the pole in the middle too, maybe thinking about building a nest?
It would be nice if the county parks would put up a few more platforms here. Although maybe they don’t want Osprey poop and fishy bits on their fields and paths!
This is a restored wetland in the east section of Haney Creek Preserve. (I’m usually in the north section, where there’s a dog park and a nice 1-mile trail through sand scrub and pine flatwoods.)
How did this lovely place come to be? According to this 2017 article “Stuart Completes Wetlands Restoration Project”…
Work on the entire property began in 1999, when the city received grants from Florida Communities Trust to purchase the land. Additional grant money from the St. Lucie River Issues Team and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection augmented the work, which included removal of exotic plants and an engineered wetlands area for natural water filtration.
Yesterday and the day before I visited the newer East Trail, in the section outlined in yellow on the kiosk map at the entrance, off Dixie Highway. (There is no real parking here, but I have been told that the nearby TC3 Church allows use of their large parking lot.)
Haney Creek itself flows south into the St. Lucie River. The restoration of the wetlands, with improved stormwater management, will help protect and improve the health of the estuary. Good job, City of Stuart and Martin County!
It looks like Pond Apple trees were planted at the water’s edge as part of the restoration. It’s a Florida native commonly found in the Everglades. It likes its feet wet, as they say.
As they get bigger, pond apples provide good nesting and roosting places for birds.
Fresh water flows under the bridge and joins brackish water on the west side of the preserve, which eventually flows into the St. Lucie River.
There are mangrove trees growing along the banks of the brackish tidal creek.
Pickerel weed, a native aquatic plant, helps stabilize the banks of the freshwater pond.
I’ve been mostly ignoring vultures because they are so common here in winter, but I decided to immortalize this one.
The large shrubs are Carolina willows growing along the berm that was built up for the pond’s edge. The trail is just grass here, before it gets to boardwalk over a marshy area.
In the shade of the willows, I spotted pretty red flowers on a plant that looks like a member of the hibiscus family.
On the north side of the pond, there is a broad creek that flows into it. It is so peaceful here, even though the preserve is along Dixie Highway and busy Route 1 is not far away.
I found laurel oak growing in cool wet woods. We have laurel oaks in our (dryish) front yard and I think they would be happier here.
You can make the trail a loop if you come back along the sidewalk, just outside the fence. I think this “east area” of Haney Creek will connect to more sections and trails in the future.
I thought I would see more birds… ducks, gallinules, wading birds? But this was a degraded wet area that has only recently been restored so maybe… if you build it they will come?
In the photo above you can barely see two birds that were getting on with typical bird behavior – a couple of male Boat-tailed Grackles were having a singing and perching contest.
“I’m the man!”
“Nope, sorry. I’m on the highest spot and therefore I’M THE MAN.”
Hey birds, maybe it’s this guy who’s the man. Jeffrey Krauskopf served as a city and county commissioner for a total of 30 years. His efforts led to the purchase of the land for this preserve. Save the land, save the river.
This one was soaring above one of our favorite spots, “the causeway.” It’s a park under the west side of the Ernest Lyons Bridge that crosses the Indian River Lagoon, connecting Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island. We can walk there from home. It’s a favorite spot to throw the ball for the dog and watch birds, fish, boats, fishermen and windsurfers.
We are the watchers. The walkers and watchers.
Here’s a bird we watched.
A Great Blue Heron was standing in shallows on the north side.
This bird can strike a pose. Vogue Heron.
It is showing some blue coloring near its eye and some long dark plumes on its head. Its legs are turning a darker color too. Mating season ahoy.
Spotted from afar, a Spotted Sandpiper. I moved slowly closer.
These are the most widespread sandpipers in North America, but not super common around here as far as I can tell. They migrate north for their summer mating season.
The tail bobbing movement of this bird is distinctive, and caught my eye while I was watching this one and trying to ID it.
From Cornell Lab of Ornithology…
Its characteristic teetering motion has earned the Spotted Sandpiper many nicknames. Among them are teeter-peep, teeter-bob, jerk or perk bird, teeter-snipe, and tip-tail.
The function of the teetering motion typical of this species has not been determined. Chicks teeter nearly as soon as they hatch from the egg. The teetering gets faster when the bird is nervous, but stops when the bird is alarmed, aggressive, or courting.
I think I’ll check in at this spot once a month this year, and keep an eye on the birds close to home.
That includes our winter friends the vultures, like this Black Vulture on a causeway lamppost.
“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
I often wander the Haney Creek North section but a few days ago I finally explored “East” shown on the map above highlighted in yellow. It’s located in Stuart, Florida north of the St. Lucie River.
A trail leads away from the pull-off area along Dixie Highway.
We can thank Stuart City Commissioner Jeffrey Krauskopf for helping save this land from development. There is a freshwater marsh on the right hand side here, and brackish swamp with mangroves on the other.
Blue flag? It used to bloom by our New Hampshire pond in spring. I didn’t know it grew in this part of Florida.
Boardwalk with plenty of cautionary signs.
Got a good look at a young Little Blue Heron. Yes, they start off as Little White Herons.
Maple? Also haven’t noticed that around here. Maybe swamp maple… which also grew by our old pond 1400 miles north of here.
Palm Warbler in the trees.
Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.
Weedy fields, forest edges, and scrubby areas are great places to look for them during migration and winter. Look through groups of birds foraging on the ground—they’re often with sparrows, juncos, and Yellow-rumped Warblers—so watch for their characteristic tail wagging to pull them out of the crowd. They also forage in low shrubs and isolated trees in open areas, where they sometimes sally out for insects like a flycatcher. Palm Warblers typically aren’t skittish, so if you find one, you should have enough time to get a good look.
I like the way the light hit the bird’s eye in this shot.
Also spotted a Downy Woodpecker, near the southern end of its range too.
View walking back on the boardwalk over freshwater.
A boardwalk through the mangroves leads to a view over the Indian River Lagoon and the shallow sandbars known as Sailfish Flats. The boardwalk is across the street from Bathtub Reef Beach. (And within my 5-mile radius.)
This was my first visit here. I stopped by this eBird Hotspot this morning at 8 a.m. and watched birds for 15 minutes.
Here is my eBird checklist. I forgot my binoculars so I couldn’t ID the terns on the farthest sandbar. Next time!
First bird was a White Ibis.
A young Reddish Egret flew in from the north and landed on the railing near me.
I suspect this is the same bird I saw on the ocean side on September 20: LINK.
One guy was coming back from fishing. It was 86 degrees and a bit windy, but the wind was from the east so we were a bit protected on this side of Hutchinson Island.
The egret flew out to the flats and started its fishing dance.
I didn’t see it catch anything, but it was pretty to watch.
Master fishing-bird the Osprey did catch something.
It was immediately harassed by another Osprey, something I haven’t seen before.
Maybe it was a young Osprey begging for food from a parent?
Still hopping around out there.
American Bird Conservancy…
The Reddish Egret stalks its prey—mostly small fish—more actively than other herons and egrets. The birds first locate their quarry by sight, then the dance begins. They dash, lurch, and zig-zag after their prey, often holding their wings over the water as they hunt. This shadow-casting strategy is thought to reduce glare and help the egret more accurately sight and spear its prey.
I also saw, but did not get great photos of: Green Heron, Snowy Egret, Brown Pelican, a couple of terns species flying over, and Laughing Gulls.