Young Wood Storks at Bird Island a few weeks ago. They have since started flying. I was out biking a lot for the first few days they were airborne. They would make a big loop out over Sewall’s Point, then return to the island to land and rest.
That’s a lot of birds.
I’m a bit behind on bird photography, as I’ve been busy with other projects. Indeed, I have promised myself to put my camera aside for the month of July at least to catch up in other areas. Then hopefully pay better attention to my camera and the birds when I take up that hobby again!
Wood Storks. Looks like the ones on the left are a bit younger. Fuzzier!
What a privilege to watch these Wood Storks growing up!
Have a lovely July and see you in August or September.
This Roseate Spoonbill was on its way to a roadside culvert along Green River Parkway yesterday.
This mucky spot has been attracting a lot of birds lately. “Something hatched,” my husband theorized. He’s been biking past this spot and telling me, almost daily, that there’s a nice concentration of photogenic birds there.
The pipes pass under Green River Parkway to a series of freshwater ponds in the fenced-in area known as Green River.
Limpkin and chick, looking for lunch.
The gangly, brown-and-white Limpkin looks a bit like a giant rail or perhaps a young night-heron. Its long bill is bent and twisted at the tip, an adaptation for removing snails from the shell. Limpkins are tropical wetland birds whose range reaches into Florida.
When I approached the culvert, there were three women and three kids there already. The women were talking while two of the three kids threw rocks and snail shells in the general direction of the birds.
The spoonbills didn’t seem to mind. The boys’ aim wasn’t very good. But I still felt someone should take the birds’ side in this matter.
“Hi,” I said. “Just letting you know, I see an alligator here sometimes. Down where the boys are.”
“We’ve seen that alligator before,” said one woman. “It’s a little one.”
Forget Florida Man, there should be a Florida Mom meme!
I’d include the time I was at the beach and saw a shark in the waves and kids swimming nearby while moms were on the beach chatting and I thought, I don’t want to be annoying but they would probably want to know about a shark. I would. So I told them and one said, “We saw it. It’s a lemon shark.”
I took a few more photos while the boys tossed stones, then I tried a new angle. I said to the little girl who was not throwing stones (loud enough for the moms to hear), “Do you see the chicks? Aren’t they cute? See that one there, all little and brown and fuzzy, hiding behind its mom?”
“Aw, it’s cute!” she said. Soon the small group of humans continued on their way.
I continued north on the bike path, scanning the drainage ditch for birds like this Great Egret.
Wildlife enthusiasts and photographers will enjoy the diversity of habitats this undisturbed area has to offer.
But not right now.
State parks are closed, to prevent gatherings of more than ten people in one place.
So I kept walking north, the road and ditch on my left and the forbidden state park on my right.
Behind me, the bike trail crosses over the ditch on a small bridge, perfect for bird and alligator watching. This is near the boundary between Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Savannas Preserve to my right, so inviting.
I met a man walking south along the low dike as I walked north. He had binoculars around his neck, a good sign. We talked birds and favorite places to find birds. We lamented loss of access to a park we never see anybody else in. We agreed we don’t care if handshakes, hugs, close-talking and crowds never make a comeback. Then we each continued our own solo stalk along the margins.
Spoonbill above. I turned and retraced my steps back to the culvert.
A White Ibis had arrived while I was gone.
I watched Limpkins.
This one stayed close to the foraging adult.
Roseate Spoonbills and Limpkins.
Limpkins eat almost exclusively apple snails (genus Pomacea), plus at least three other native freshwater snail species and five species of freshwater mussels. They also eat small amounts of seeds and insects, along with lizards, frogs, insects, crustaceans such as crayfish, grasshoppers, worms, and aquatic midges. Where the water is clear, Limpkins hunt for snails and mussels by sight, walking along the water’s edge or into the shallows (rarely wading deeply) and seizing prey quickly with the bill. When waters are muddy, or have extensive vegetation, they probe into the water rapidly, rather like ibis, sometimes with the head submerged. If vegetation cover is extensive, Limpkins often walk out onto the mat of floating vegetation to hunt snails that cling to the undersides of leaves and stalks. To extract the mollusk from its shell, Limpkins place the forceps-like tip of their bill into the snail or mussel to cut the adductor muscle, using scissoring motions. They then discard the shells, often in a pile if prey is abundant in one spot.
I got a good long look at Limpkins, a bird I had never heard of before I moved to Florida a few years ago.
Getting a good start in life.
My final culvert bird was a solo Wood Stork.
Great spot, I shall return.
Before driving off, I decided to pop over to Green River for a quick look. I was thinking: I bet there’s one more special thing out there before I’m finished for the morning.
There was. Flying low over distant marsh, my first Snail Kite!
The highly specialized Snail Kite flies on broad wings over tropical wetlands as it hunts large freshwater snails.
… 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.
I was quite close to this three-and-a-half foot tall wading bird yesterday at the big freshwater pond at Indian Riverside Park in Jensen Beach.
Portrait of one of the weirdest-looking birds in Florida.
The wood stork is a large, long-legged wading bird that is a member of the stork family (Ciconiidae). It is distantly related to herons, egrets, and ibises (Order: Ciconiiformes). However, recent genetic studies suggest storks are more closely related to the new world vultures (Family: Carthartidae).https://myfwc.com/research/wildlife/birds/wood-storks/introduction/
I can see that.
There were two of them, on a slow hunt around the pond edge.
Their long bills dip in deeper than other wading birds. And they can wade in deeper water thanks to those long legs.
A Tricolored Heron was keeping close to nab fish that were stirred up by the big stork feet.
Big pink feet.
I wonder if this is a pair. Nesting season should be happening soon.
Looking down from the boardwalk we could see a Purple Gallinule.
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.
Blue frontal shield with a yellow-tipped red bill, very colorful!
Look for Purple Gallinules in dense freshwater wetlands in the extreme southeastern U.S. and farther south—sites that have both emergent and submerged vegetation such as water lilies, lotus, water hyacinth, and hydrilla. They can be fairly easy to spot as they walk on floating vegetation.
Very common in parts of the southeast until the 1860s, spoonbills were virtually eliminated from the United States as a side-effect of the destruction of wader colonies by plume hunters. Began to re-colonize Texas and Florida early in 20th century. Still uncommon and local, vulnerable to degradation of feeding and nesting habitats.
They have a darker pink sort of epaulet on their shoulders.
View from the top of the mangroves, with Brown Pelicans too.
Juvenile Magnificent Frigatebirds and one male off to the left.
Spoonbill on Bird Island beach.
Brown Pelican with fuzzy chicks.
Frigatebirds and a couple of cormorants. The northwest corner of the island is their territory.
A came upon a large trap. I guessed it might be for wild pigs, which can be such a problem in Florida.
A pair of Anhingas.
Raccoon has been here.
This part of the trail was a bit muddy from recent rains.
Mystery track. Sort of cat-like and cat-sized. Domestic cat out for a prowl? Fox?
Sort of boring yet oddly beautiful landscape, to me.
Silvery saw palmettos between the freshwater marsh grass and slash pines.
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.
A bit windy that day.
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.
Just off the east side of Sewall’s Point, in the Indian River Lagoon, the spoil island is one of the top ten bird rookeries in Florida. We borrowed a boat from our boat club on Thursday and went to see how nesting season is coming along.
Is this place even real?
Of all the islands in the Indian River Lagoon in Martin County, the birds have chosen this one for nesting, feeding, roosting, loafing.
We stay outside the Critical Wildlife Area signs and use binoculars and a superzoom camera to watch but not bother.
Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks. Oh my!
The most Great Egrets I’ve seen in one place – they seem to prefer the solitary lifestyle outside of breeding season.
Snowy Egrets and a Wood Stork at the top right of this photo. Is that a rare Reddish Egret on the left? Or a Tri-colored Heron? Can’t tell.
(Update: confirmed to be a Tricolored Heron – white belly – by helpful birders on Facebook’s “What’s This Bird?”)
I saw what I thought were three Reddish Egrets on a sandbar adjoining this island a couple of months ago, doing their distinctive fishing dance, but didn’t have my camera. In March, we spotted what I think was a Reddish Egret on Bird Island and I got a photo (it’s in this post). (Update: that one confirmed as a Reddish Egret, yay!)
“Gear down,” noted my husband, the airline pilot.
Fuzzy-headed juvenile Wood Storks. It’s been a phenomenal breeding year for these big wading birds. I see the adults flying back and forth over our house every day now. Sometimes a fish crow or two can be seen chasing a stork out of “their” suburban residential territory.
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.
Wood Storks are social birds that forage in groups and nest in colonies. Small groups of storks forage in wetlands, frequently following each other one by one in a line. In the late afternoon, when temperatures rise, Wood Storks often take to the sky, soaring on thermals like raptors. They nest in tight colonies with egrets and herons and generally show little aggression, but if a bird or mammal threatens them, they may pull their neck in, fluff up their feathers, and walk toward the intruder. Threats are also met with bill clattering and jabbing. Despite the myth that Wood Storks mate for life, pairs form at the breeding colony and stay together only for a single breeding season.
Teenagers doing what they do best.
I’ve read that water levels affect their nesting rates. When levels are low, they have fewer offspring. Well, we did have a wet year last year!
Just amazing to see (and hear and smell) this many birds in one place.
Bird Island is part of our town, Sewall’s Point. Here is a brief history of the island and a list of species observed, on the town website: Bird Island.
Young stork, Brown Pelican and Black Vulture on the beach.
Spoonbills and stork. I guess the juvenile storks start feeding on the island. I have not see the adults feed there – they fly off to other shallow waters, usually inland, usually fresh water.
I was shooting into diffuse light, so these pics aren’t that great, but I wanted to show how many Magnificent Frigatebirds were in the trees on the northwest side of the island. I have been told that this is not a confirmed nesting site for frigate birds. I’m mildly skeptical… but humble about the limits of my bird knowledge.