Tag Archives: Savannas Preserve State Park

Fire and water in the Savannas

I brake for gopher tortoises.

This one was crossing a sandy road in the section of the Savannas Preserve State Park off Walton Road, in St. Lucie County.

I parked at the Canoe Launch area. The launch ramp itself, pictured above, is closed (for repairs?) right now, but there is a small beach where it looks possible to launch a canoe or kayak.

The visitor center near the entrance is also not open right now.

Common Gallinule among the lilies.

This spot provides access to one of the park’s basin marshes. The 7,000 acres of Savannas Preserve State Park protects southeast Florida’s largest freshwater marsh system.

You can see the Canoe Launch on both these maps, posted to a bulletin board there. A few days ago I took a slow walk on the Yellow Trail, over two bridges, and looped back on the White Trail, around two miles of travel.

It looks like there was a prescribed burn maybe a few weeks ago. In Florida, we burn it before the lightning fires do.

My first “captured” bird was this Gray Catbird, Dumetella carolinensis.

The name Dumetella is based upon the Latin term dūmus (“thorny thicket”; it thus means approximately “small thornbush-dweller” or “small bird of the thornbushes”.

I got a good look at a brown anole, near the trail. Males have dewlaps.

Brown anoles are native to Cuba and the Bahamas and an invasive species in Florida, taking over habitat especially from the native green anoles.

The weather was beautiful, warm with a light southeast breeze.

The lingering scent of the burn smelled like someone had a big campfire the night before.

Regular fires keep the understory open, preventing shrubs from becoming dominant in the pine flatwoods and scrub.

Two roads diverged in a burnt woods and I took the Yellow Trail.

I really appreciate the people who design and build bridges and boardwalks through Florida’s wet spots, so we can get a good look without getting wet.

Small flocks of Palm Warblers crossed my path a few times.

They wag their tails up and down constantly and spend a lot of time hopping around on the ground, which is weird for warblers.

I think this yellow-flowering plant near wetlands is in the tickseed/ coreopsis family.

The view from near the second footbridge.

Serene, right?

Looking down at lily pads. Their colors now, in the dormant season, remind me of autumn leaves.

This trail is still a little wet in the dry season. My daughter and I turned around here a couple of months ago, when the puddles extended too far and deep across this way.

New growth after fire.

This eerie landscape held signs of hope.

A burn actually promotes the flowering of saw palmettos.

Returning on the White Trail, one side had been burned and the other one not.

Antidote.

For still there are so many things that I have never seen: in every wood in every spring there is a different green. – J.R.R. Tolkien

Birds and beyond

This Limpkin was taking a break from being a wading bird poking around in the mud for apple snails to get a different perspective on the world.

I was taking a break from social media and blogging but now I am back to blogging.

I’ve been visiting parts of the Savannas Preserve a lot lately, where I’ve started to wonder about and photograph things besides just birds.

This shrub is common along the trail that runs north off Jensen Beach Boulevard. It has flowers that remind me of the wild blueberry plants in our old New Hampshire backyard, but pink instead of white.

I signed up for iNaturalist in early January, where I can upload photos and get suggestions and help identifying any living thing.

I learned this is Lyonia lucida, also known as fetterbush lyonia, hurrahbush and staggerbush. It’s found in shrubby bogs, savannas and swamps of the coastal plain of the southeastern U.S. They are members of the Ericaceae family, the heath or heather family that includes blueberry, cranberry, rhododendron and more.

It’s called fetterbush because it grows thick and tangly and can restrict or fetter the passage of humans and animals. Saw palmetto does a good job fettering passage as well.

Here’s another plant that likes moist, acidic soil: the pink sundew, Drosera capillaris. So strange, and beautiful, and … carnivorous!

Sundews lure, capture and digest insects using the sticky, gluey substance mucilage that looks like dew.

Here’s gallberry, Ilex glabra, with fruits and flowers located helpfully close together for the amateur i-naturalist seeking to identify this species of holly.

It’s a coastal plain plant also known as inkberry, found in sandy soil around edges of swamps and bogs. In late fall when it was very rainy, this whole area of the Savannas Preserve was underwater for weeks. Now we are in the dry season, though shallow ponds and boggy spots remain.

This is the trail that runs north from the small parking area off Jensen Beach Boulevard and was mostly underwater. It’s a soothing vista, just walk along the wide footpath in warm sunshine.

All photos are from this trail except for the limpkin, which was near the side entrance to the Savannas off Green River Parkway.

Striped and fuzzy.

In my pre-amateur naturalist phase (a few weeks ago) I would have glanced at this insect, maybe photographed it, and said, “A bee, cute.” But I wanted to know what kind of bee it was so I posted it to iNaturalist.

It was quickly identified as a Northern Plushback FLY, Palpada vinetorum. I guess it does have eyes and wings more like a fly, now that I really look at it.

Here I have been all this time crashing through the natural world like a dumb, half-blind giant, thinking I’m looking at “bees” when some are really flies and even a child knows they are different creatures. I am surrounded by a multitude of species I never knew existed.

This is a Sensitive Plant, Mimosa pudica, in the pea/ legume family. The leaves close up when you touch them, and at night. The flowers are like little pink fireworks.

Of course I also think of the flower in Dr. Seuss’s book Horton Hears a Who. On the flower is a tiny speck of dust, which is also an entire planet for the small (but loud) creatures called Whos.

What a pretty fungus this is, growing on the burnt trunk of a saw palmetto after a controlled burn a few years ago… beauty among the ruins.

It’s in the genus Trametes, in the Bracket fungi family, not sure the species. But it would be terrible to know everything, right?

Early November in Savannas Preserve

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American Kestrel looks fierce and cute at the same time.

I saw this bird and others on Saturday during a solo 1.1-mile walk in the Martin County section of the wonderfully unique Savannas Preserve, off Jensen Beach Boulevard.

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Entrance fee is $3, self service. There is a picnic pavilion and a bathroom building.

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Info.

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The main trail heads off into the wild.

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Holly berries gave a festive, late autumn look to an otherwise not very autumnal landscape – at least for those of us who have lived in north most of our lives. This is Dahoon holly, I think.

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Wood Stork.

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Great Egret heading in the other direction.

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Main trail goes straight. This time I took the side trail to the right, heading east towards a lower, wetter area.

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Northern Mockingbird posed on a stump.

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Wildflowers in bloom.

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A group of Wood Storks was feeding near a Great Egret.

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Holly and a nest box, at the edge of the wetlands.

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Wood Storks took off and then I counted them (two others went in another direction).

My eBird checklist for the walk is HERE.

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Great Blue Heron was standing very still.

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A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.

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A pair of Anhingas.

IMG_9939Raccoon has been here.

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This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.

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Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?

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Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.

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Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.

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I heard this kestrel calling before I saw it.

American Kestrels have a fairly limited set of calls, but the most common one is a loud, excited series of 3-6 klee! or killy! notes lasting just over a second. It’s distinctive and an excellent way to find these birds. You may also hear two other common calls: a long whine that can last 1–2 minutes, heard in birds that are courting or feeding fledglings, and a fast chitter, usually used by both sexes in friendly interactions.

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A bit windy that day.

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North America’s littlest falcon, the American Kestrel packs a predator’s fierce intensity into its small body. It’s one of the most colorful of all raptors: the male’s slate-blue head and wings contrast elegantly with his rusty-red back and tail; the female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail. Hunting for insects and other small prey in open territory, kestrels perch on wires or poles, or hover facing into the wind, flapping and adjusting their long tails to stay in place.

 

Hawk’s Bluff on a hot, almost-birdless day

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Life before lawns, South Florida.

There might be a bird in this photo, but I did not see it.

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We walked the Hawk’s Bluff Trail in the quiet southeastern corner of Savannas Preserve State Park, Jensen Beach, yesterday late morning. It was hot and still.

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The trail comes down to a cool view over the wetlands, now in their full summer wetness. A Little Blue Heron flew by.

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Fragrant water lilies, Nymphaea odorata, aka American white water lilies were blooming.

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Red dragonfly perched nearby. Maybe an autumn meadowhawk?

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I’ve seen a lot of dragonflies lately, eating mosquitoes and gnats I hope!

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Savannas Preserve State Park provides a representative sample of a basin marsh that extended throughout Southern Florida  prior to the rapid suburban sprawl.

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Lilies and lily pads.

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Partridge pea and a palmetto.

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Partridge pea wildflowers appear in summer and fall in most places but year-round in South Florida.

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Red-winged Blackbird at the wetland’s edge.

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The trails are mainly (hot) white sand, but not too soft. You just have to watch out for snakes.

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Savannas Preserve protects southeast Florida’s largest freshwater marsh.

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Little Blue Heron wading at water’s edge.

Savannas in early May

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Partridge pea is blooming at Savannas Preserve State Park. We went for a walk there yesterday, at the far south entrance off Jensen Beach Blvd.

Savannas Preserve State Park encompasses 6,000 acres stretching 10 miles from Jensen Beach to Fort Pierce with the largest freshwater marsh in South Florida. Water levels are seasonally variable.

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This is a marsh overlook, with trusty dog and adventurous husband, but without much water to see at the end of the dry season.

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But the water is coming. In fact, half an hour after our walk it rained hard off and on for the rest of the day. Rainy season officially begins May 15 and lasts to Oct. 15.

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Not a lot of birds got close enough for me to photograph. The exception to the rule was odd: a Little Blue Heron flew to the top of a tall pine tree.

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Bird’s eye view.

Check out the Nature & History of the park at the Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park webpage.

The Savannas comprises six natural communities: pine flatwoods, wet prairie, basin marsh, marsh lake, sand pine scrub, and scrubby flatwoods. Each community is characterized by a distinct population of plants and animals that are naturally associated with each other and their physical environment. 

Of particular interest is the sand pine scrub, a globally-imperiled plant community covering the eastern boundary of the park. It is dominated by sand pines and is home to the Florida scrub-jay and gopher tortoise.

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We were walking on trails through the flatwoods and scrub. But that is not a Scrub Jay…

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Those feet seem to work for perching as well as the usual shoreline wading.

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Little Blue.

Check out this drone video of the Savannas by Alan Nyiri on Youtube.