Sunday, February 17, 2013

Ulumay and the Wood Stork

Looking at Merritt Island from above it is difficult to think of it as an island. Laying as it does between the mainland to the west and the barrier island that stretches down Florida's coast to the east, it seems all pretty well connected. Looking at this image it looks like it's more of a peninsula than island, but it is certainly bounded by water, with the Indian River to the west and the Banana River to the east. This is all part of the Intracoastal Waterway, and includes places like Canaveral National Seashore, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge.

Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary is at the south end of the island, (see the "A" pointer, above), south of 528 (the "Beach Line", a direct route from Orlando to the Atlantic) and relatively close to my grandma's house. I have been remiss in only visiting the place once before, but in my defense I had a pretty bad experience there the first time. This was not the fault of the park, but a result of my own ignorance.

Years ago Lisa and I drove down with our bikes. My grandma told us there was a trail at Ulumay that circled the park (or did we just assume this?). We were happy to have a place to ride that wasn't on a busy street so we drove the 10 minutes to the sanctuary and started riding from the parking area at the south end off of Sykes Creek Parkway. All was fine for a while, the trail wide and mostly dirt. Then it narrowed, from the width of a car to a foot path, and we found ourselves navigating tree roots and branches. Then, it just sort of piddled out. Still thinking there would be a trail up ahead we pushed on, getting off our bikes and walking them through the wilderness. Several hours after we began we finally emerged on 528. We took the busy streets back south and eventually found the parking area and our truck. We were tired and dirty and a bit rattled, and I hadn't been back since.

Bird paradise in the midst of humanity.

Tuesday afternoon, after photographing the osprey, a neighbor suggested I go to the Ulumay Wildlife Sanctuary. She described the place and how to get there. I was pretty sure this was the same place Lisa and I had had our biking adventure (I didn't remember the name). Having some time to kill that afternoon, my mom and I decided to drive out to the sanctuary and go for a short walk, then pick up dinner on the way back. Once we arrived at Ulumay I was certain this was the place of our ill-fated bike ride.

Ulumay and the Indian River from the fishing pier.

The first thing we saw as we pulled up to the parking area near the fishing pier was a wood stork, waiting for handouts.

He was non-plussed, and stretched languidly.


I was curious to know why the bird is bald, but haven't been able to find any explanations. I understand why vultures are bald, being carrion eaters, but the stork is a fisherman, so that doesn't make sense. Perhaps it is to help regulate temperature during hot weather, as they nest in the tops of trees. Perhaps no one knows!

A face only a mother could love.

He finally got annoyed and walked off to go stand in the grass.

We walked for a bit on the trails and saw a variety of birds, including yellow-rumped warblers (they were everywhere down there!), and three birds who were "new", although I have no doubt that I have seen/heard them before and I just wasn't paying attention then: the ground dove, fish crow and mockingbird. I took photos of them all but they aren't great, really just to add to the Album of Identification, so I won't bother you with them here. You can see them on my Flickr page,

For more info about Ulumay and its history:

For information about the wood stork:

Next up: Warbler in the back yard

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