Great Blue Heron/Eye on the Horizon- St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

Blue herons together in nest. Photo by Paul Shidel     2015.
Blue heron pair together in nest SLR/IRL. Photo by Paul Shidel, 2015.

In my youth, I remember a time in Rio, when my friend Vicki and I found a Great Blue Heron tangled in fishing line and hooks along the St Lucie River. Vicki, always being the leader, designated me to save the bird. I recall walking out into the shallow river and determining how I could help this gigantic and magnificent creature that stood almost as tall as myself.

The bird’s yellow/gold eyes were wild and frightened as it struggled against the line. To me, its markings resembled Indian war paint; its purple/blue coloring extraordinary.  I was inspired and scared by its strength, beauty, and fight to survive.

Vicki barked directions at me, threw me a towel, and some scissors. Being careful not to hurt the bird, I cut the line from the mangrove, bringing it into my arms, gently holding its sharp beak, and then trounced back up to the shoreline. Vicki’s older sister, Beth, drove us to a wildlife veterinarian who took the line and hooks off the bird and returned it to the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. This must have been sometime in the late 1970s…

The above photo, by local photographer, Paul Shidel, was recently shared, and brought back memories of this childhood experience. Birds tie into a week of blogging about destructive changes and history to the Everglades’ system.

James Audubon's "Great Blue Heron" ca. 1800s. (Public photo)
J. James Audubon’s “Great Blue Heron” ca. 1830. (Public photo)

Believe it or not, the National Audubon Society states that only 10% of the bird life remains in the Everglades compared to its pre-development glory. We are part of the Everglades. The Northern Everglades.

*90 % of the bird life is gone….

When you see a great blue heron know you are witnessing a “survivor.”

Have you ever watched them fly? Head forward; legs back; and a steady eye on the horizon. Completely focused. We too must keep our eyes on the horizon and be completely focused.

We have a long fight forward to save the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. And that we will.


Great Blue Heron Audubon: (

Martin County Audubon: (

* Eric Draper of  Florida Audubon quoted “90% loss of birds in the Everglades” 1-22-15 during his presentation to Martin County Audubon. This statistic is widely noted.

Search other blog post by subject at: (

Miami Herald article on Everglades bird population 2014/15: (

16 thoughts on “Great Blue Heron/Eye on the Horizon- St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon

  1. Thank you for writing about your experience. Even in our lifetimes, the Everglades has seen a dramatic decline in the number of bird inhabitants. As a teenager, I was a Ranger Aide in Everglades National Park for four years on weekends. The Great Blue Heron and the egrets were the only birds visitors could see in the landscape, so it gave me great pleasure to point out the dozens of other birds so well disguised that we could stand just a few feet away without spotting them.
    As an adult 30 years later, I brought my children from West Virginia to visit the Everglades, not only so they could experience first-hand this amazing land, but probably also to show off a little as I expected to again point to birds and creatures they’d not seen standing close to them. I was shattered at what I found: Not only far fewer birds, but also an overall change in lushness and color of the sawgrass, far too many cattails, and alligator gars replaced by aquarium Oscars. My heart broke, and I cried as I walked the Anhinga trail, where I’d spent countless hours showing visitors that the Everglades is far more than just a swamp. If I’d been asked then if I thought the Everglades would survive, I would have said, “I don’t think it’s possible.”
    Recent visits, however, not only to the park but to the Big Cypress Swamp and other points, have reversed that outlook, because I’ve seen a resurgence of bird life in many areas, pockets of real recovery overall, that tell me we’re heading….finally…in the right direction. We still have a long way to go, but we can turn this disaster around, if, as you say, we don’t lose sight of our objectives. Thank you for keeping your eyes on the horizon, staying focused, and setting an example for all of us to do the same. We must save the Everglades.

    1. Dear Barbara, I really love your story…wow. So glad according to your observations things are improving. I read today they think there are about 100,000 birds in the Everglades now as opposed to the one million before. It seems we could use bird counts to tell how much we are improving—easier to count than fish! I suppose the Audubon Society does this but maybe we could do it here with everyone participating as well? Have a baseline and go from there….publish every year for all to see not just bird watchers…Thanks so very much for sharing your story. It struck my heart.

  2. Endless schools pf menhaden and mullet = Endless numbers of birds. Perhaps fishermen are not the ones who will bring about the change needed. Birds are all fat here and will probably be raiseing baby birds in the spring.

  3. I know how Barbara feels—the shock does not hit you unless you leave and then come back exspecting things to be the same. Those who see things gradually get worse seem to accept it as perfectly normal. Birds spread phosphorus and every living thing needs phosphorus. If you waunt to see birds you should come to Melbourne. I think the bird population is about to be more than I ever remember. Today a group of people whos shirts all said Kohls cares walked pass me picking up shells on the beach. (they were picking up trash) There were many hundreds of skimmers(bird)resting on the sand and I exsplaind how skimmers surviveal depended on the menhaden. They would fly low to the water and the specially designed lower beak would cut through the water like a knife and mehadden minnows would slide up into their mouth.I exsplained most of the things I have been writeing to you about.

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