Monday, January 10, 2011

Pelican Island NWR

Florida 2010 posts continued....

When I had been researching Florida's middle east coast for hiking opportunities I came across Pelican Island, near the little town of Sebastian. I learned that this national wildlife refuge was the first ever created, when in 1903 Teddy Roosevelt set aside 5.5 acres to protect the Brown pelican. Since then the refuge has grown to over 5,000 acres, and is home to more than 100 bird species. The refuge is part of the same Indian River Lagoon/barrier island system that Archie Carr NWR encompasses.

After my hike at the Barrier Island Center I drove farther down the coast to Pelican Island. It felt good to be out exploring! I must confess however that I was a bit disappointed, at least initially, with Pelican Island, not because it wasn't a cool place but because it was so quiet.

It's a very nice park with an easy walkway and boardwalk that leads out over the flats. The boardwalk is neat, displaying the names of all the national wildlife refuges in order of their inception.

But other than the pretty view from the observation deck, there was not much to see--no birds, certainly no pelicans. Bummer.

So I walked back to the parking lot, thinking about heading back up to my grandma's, when I heard the call of a bird I did not recognize. I am no expert when it comes to bird calls--I know very few, in fact. But this was distinctly different that anything I'd heard before. I stopped in my tracks and scanned the trees. Finally, I spotted the source, near the top of a small snag.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing. For whatever reason, before I left home, I told the girls I wanted to see a Loggerhead shrike. I had never seen a shrike, and I thought they were striking birds. Well, here it was, in a dead tree at the edge of the parking lot, a couple hundred feet from my car.

I snapped away, taking a picture every time the bird twitched. I was nearly giddy with excitement! (These images are of course cropped.)

I do think this is a gorgeous bird, with its bold markings. Very dapper.

The shrike finally flew away, and I walked along the edge of the lot, where I heard more soft twitterings in the shrubbery. I spotted this Yellow-rumped warbler. I had seen a male once back in Michigan, but this was my first female.

As I looked more closely I realized that there was another warbler here too, one I had not seen before. I checked my book and identified a palm warbler. Yeehaw, two new birds in one day!!

So what started as a bit of a disappointment ended with a small bonanza of new birds. It was a good lesson, to never give up, and always pay attention, because otherwise you may miss what is right in front of you.

On another note: I was awakened last night to the calls of coyotes behind the house. I got up and opened a window, and was met with the chorus of two or three 'yotes not more than 100 feet from the house. They stopped their singing soon after, but I could hear them walking around, crunching in the snow. It could be courtship, or perhaps they caught a rabbit or feral cat. I had a hard time going back to sleep....

Next: Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

1 comment:

  1. How nice of the shrike to sit still long enough for you to get these shots! A gorgeous bird, indeed.