Tag Archives: Bird Island

The Eagle of the 16th Hole, Sailfish Point, SLR/IRL

Eagle, Sailfish Point, 3-18, by Susan Kane

Last evening, at a gathering of friends of my mothers, I met Mrs Susan Kane. The conversation started as usual with someone I do not know, but quickly, somehow, the our words turned to eagles living along the St Lucie River, Indian River Lagoon.

I told Susan, I had never seen one here flying, ever, but I knew they were here as Greg Braun, formerly of Audubon, took photos of one sitting on a rock at Bird Island…. I  had also heard that there was a pair that hunted from a tall, dead, Australian Pine tree by the Marriott’s Indian River Plantation Marina. But again, although I walk the bridge between Sewall’s Point and Hutchinson Island quite often, I had never seen them…Once, while driving on Highway 76  in Indiantown, I did see an eagle, and was so excited that I parked my car on the side of the road and with trucks zooming by I watched it soar. I was smiling from ear to ear.

Susan listened politely, and then replied, “Well recently, Jacqui,  I took a photograph of an eagle on the 16th hole of the Sailfish Point golf course.”

“You’re kidding?” I inquired.

“Yes, the eagle captured a fish right there in the pond at the 16th hole of the golf course.”

“That’s incredible.” I replied, taking a large sip of my cocktail, to hide my bird envy.

Over the course of dinner, Susan pulled out her photos and shared. They are wonderful! And today I am sharing her photos with you.

Look at this eagle. Its expression!

What a sight I hope I get to see! 🙂

Eagle of Sailfish Point, by Susan Kane
Photo by Susan Kane
Photo by Susan Kane

Sailfish Point: http://www.sailfishpoint.com

Former post on eagles of the IRL:
https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/11/21/id-rather-be-an-eagle-than-a-turkey-st-luice-riverindian-river-lagoon/

Thank you Susan for sharing your photos of the eagle of Sailfish Point along the Indian River Lagoon!!!

Aerials of Our Rain Stained Lagoon, SLR/IRL

Recently, it seems to rain almost every day!

TCPalm’s Elliott Jones reported this morning that Stuart has received a whopping 11.30 inches of rain just so far this month! (The average being 7.14.)

Although due to the recent drought, the ACOE/SFWMD are not dumping Lake Okeechobee through Canal C-44, canals C-23, C-24, C-25, and areas along C-44, as well as our own basin, are draining right into the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Very little of this water is cleansed before it enters and thus is damaging to the eco system. Next time you see water draining through a grate in a parking lot, think about this. Remember too that before the major canals were constructed the 1900s, the river received less than half the water it gets every time it rains today.

IMG_5231.JPG
SLR at “Hell’s Gate” looking at Sewall’s Point, Sailfish Point and the St Luice Inlet
photo drainage basin
Drainage changes to the SLR. Green is the original watershed. Yellow and pink have been added since ca.1920. (St Lucie River Initiative’s Report to Congress 1994.)

The aerials below were taken 6-13-17 by my husband Ed Lippisch and pilot Dave Stone. It is important to monitor the river all of the time so we can view changes.

“Rain stained” we are; please remember not to fertilize during the rainy season. The birds on Bird Island will appreciate it! (http://befloridian.org)

Canals

TC Palm, Elliott Jones, 6-19-17
Bird Island, IRL east of Sewall’s Point
Bird Island
IRL St Lucie Inlet and Sailfish Point
Sailfish Flats, IRL
Crossroads, confluence SLR/IRL off Sewall’s Point
Spoil Island off Sailfish, bird also roosting here!
Sick looking seagrass beds in IRL looking south towards Jupiter Narrows
SL Inlet near Sailfish Point, no black plume but darker colored waters
Jupiter Island’s state park at St Lucie Inlet
Sailfish Point
St Lucie Inlet looking south
inlet again
Clear ocean water at jetty, St Lucie Inlet
Looking back to St Lucie Inlet mixed colored waters but not black as with Lake O water releases
St Lucie Inlet between Jupiter Island’s state park and Sailfish Point
inlet again
Looking north to SL Inlet
Jetty
Hutchinson Island and Sailfish Flats in IRL. Sewall’s Point in distance.
Parts of the Savannas near Jensen , IRL and Hutchinson Island in distance
Savannas State Preserve Park

Canals draining water into SLR/IRL after rain events:

C-23 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c23.pdf

C-24 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c24.pdf

C-25 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/c-25.pdf

C-44 http://www.dep.state.fl.us/southeast/ecosum/ecosums/C-44%20Canal%20.pdf

Sewall’s Point is for the Birds! SLR/IRL

 

Sewall Point, Arthur Ruhnke ca. 1950. courtesy of Sandra henderson Thurlow.
Sewall’s Point, Arthur Ruhnke ca. 1950. Photo courtesy of historian Sandra Henderson Thurlow.

This is one of my favorite historic aerial photos of Sewall’s Point; I have used it before. It is on page 11 of my mother’s book “Sewall’s Point a History of a Peninsular Community on Florida’s Treasure Coast.”

Taken in the 1950s, the peninsula is basically undeveloped. The spoil islands, from dredging the Intercostal Waterway, sit to the east of the island lone and unattached…

One very special spoil island is in this photo as well. I think it is the one furthest north: Bird Island, or MC 2, is a small spoil island now off the Archipelago. Comparing the photo above and below you can see the changes to the east side of Sewall’s Point and Bird Island.

Aerial Sewall's Point's east side. JTL 2013.
Aerial Sewall’s Point’s east side. JTL 2013.

I visited Bird Island yesterday with the Florida Wildlife Commission preparing for a field trip for their board who is meeting in South Florida this week. Bird Island was the first Critical Wildlife Area in the state of Florida designated in 20 years in 2014. This was an enormous accomplishment!

Kipp Fröhlich who was aboard boat yesterday said, “Yes it is amazing, we still don’t totally understand why the birds choose this particular island!” This is true. There are many to choose from.

One thing is for sure, the birds and humans love it here! It is a wonderful thing when wildlife  and humans can reside together. Thank you FWC!

With Ricardo Zambrano who oversaw the coordination of the CWA along with MC, Sewall's Point, Sunshine Wildlife Tours.
With FWC’s Ricardo Zambrano who oversaw the challenging goal of getting the idea off the ground and then achieving CWA status with the leadership of Martin County’s Deb Drum, Mike Yustin and team, the Town of Sewall’s Point, and stakeholders such as Sunshine Wildlife Tours, the commercial fishermen, and many others. After much work and broad support and years..the board of the FWC made the final approval.
Ansley Taylor, Dr Carol Rizkalla, Ricardo and Kip Frohlich. Dr Carol was instrumental in research for the success of the CWA.
Ansley Taylor regional volunteer, Dr Carol Rizkalla, Ricardo Z. and Dep. Dir. Kipp Frohlich from Tallahassee. Dr Carol was instrumental in research for the success of the CWA.

 

Photo by Greg Braun who documented all bird life and nesting for MC during the designation.
Photo by Greg Braun who documented all bird life and nesting for MC during the designation.
Happy wood storks on nests.
Happy wood storks on nests! JTL 4-12-16 There were Roseate spoonbills nesting too.
Spoonbills in mangroves. JTL
Nesting spoonbills in mangroves 4-12-16.  JTL

FWC Bird Island report: http://myfwc.com/news/news-releases/2015/january/28/bird-island-cwa/

Former blog on Bird Island with details on bird life: https://jacquithurlowlippisch.com/2014/05/09/bird-islandindian-river-lagoon-one-of-floridas-most-important-avian-breeding-grounds/

I’d Rather be an Eagle Than a Turkey, St Luice River/Indian River Lagoon

The Bald Eagle, (Public Photo)
The Majestic Bald Eagle, (Public Photo)

Benjamin Franklin preferred the wild turkey as our national bird, as he felt the bald eagle, that sometimes steals food from other birds of prey, had “bad moral character…” Even so, one has to wonder if the United States of America would have ever reached its “greatness” if our national bird had been a turkey.

Wild turkey displays its fanned tail. (Public photo)
A beautiful but not quite as stately, wild turkey displays its fanned tail. (Public photo)

Just recently during the Stuart Air Show, my brother Todd, sent me some photos he took of an eagle soaring over the St Lucie River in North River Shores. About three weeks ago, I was pulling into Cedar Point Plaza in Stuart, I looked up and saw the unmistakable white “bald” head, large body enormous wing span of a bald eagle. Incredible! Inspirational! It made my day!

Bale Eagle flying over North River Shores. (Photo by Todd Thurlow, 11-14.)
Bale Eagle flying over North River Shores. (Photo by Todd Thurlow, 11-14.)

Today, in our Indian River Lagoon Region, birds of prey are by far more prevalent than when I was a kid growing up in Stuart in the 1970s and 80s. Even if the Indian River Lagoon system was healthier then, than it is now, in the 70s and 80s, rarely did one see the great eagle soaring or the abundant ospreys one sees today.

The reason? Of course DDT, (dichlorodiphenyltrichhloroethane), a powerful chemical used to control mosquitoes and as an agricultural insecticide. Once it became widely known that DDT was a threat to both bird and human health, primarily due to the publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, in 1962, DDT’s use was eventually outlawed in the United States.

So in spite of the St Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon’s extensive decline, there are more eagles about today than before. In Florida, after being designated as “endangered” since 1972, in 1995 the bald eagle was reclassified as “threatened.” The birds and their habitat remain protected.

Eagles mate for life and a pair has been reported in the area of Sewall’s Point for about four years. The photo below was taken by Greg Braun and shows one of the eagles sitting on a rock by Bird Island. Apparently, the pairs may leave each other for many months when traveling great distances, and then return to their nesting sites. There are accounts of their “mating sky dance” where the eagles lock talons hundreds of feet up in the air and then tumble, almost hitting the earth, only to release and regain their flight at the last-minute!

 

Eagle sitting near Bird Island just off of the Town of Sewall's Point. (Photo by Greg Braun, 2012.)
Eagle sitting near Bird Island just off of the Town of Sewall’s Point. (Photo by Greg Braun, 2012.)

An eagle can stand three feet in height, and its wing span can be up to 8 feet! Their eyes are just larger than human eyes and of course, their eye sight is superior, approximately 3 and 1/2 times better than a human with 20/20 vision. For instance, they are able to see another eagle flying 50 miles away and a rabbit moving over the ground a mile away. They love fish and are outstanding hunters. Females are larger than males and dominate the nest, often killing the smaller male sibling. Nature does not sugar coat the eagle’s drive to dominate and survive, especially the females….

Another strong instinct is “pruning” which chicks mimic even before they have feathers by accessing an oil gland at the base of the torso using  their curved beak to pretend they are coating  each feather.  Baby eagles must grow for about five or six years to be sexually mature and attain their white head feathers. Parents take care of the young for many months even though the young start flapping their wings around 8 weeks and are encouraged to take flight.  I was lucky to experience this wonder, when a few years ago, Dr Dale Hipson, a friend of the family, took me to his camouflaged hide out in the Corbett Wildlife Management Area to watch eagle parents dutifully feeding and teaching their young. It was an experience I will never forget. 

Dr Hipson taught me that the  word “bald” is an archaic word for “white” and this is how eagles got their name. Juvenile eagles are brown in color and often mistaken as ospreys or hawks.

Reading about eagles, it is hard to understand their migration patterns and perhaps scientists  do not really know as they can’t fly with them, but it seems some eagles in Florida migrate thousands of miles to Alaska (Snow birds!) and some are “resident” eagles remaining here. Florida is  the second most eagle-populated state in the nation other than Alaska.

Eagle nests are the largest nests known.
Eagle nests are the largest nests known. (Photo Harbor Ridge reporting/video taping  of nesting site, 2011.)
Eagle in area of Rio, as taken last week by wildlife photographer,
Eagle in area of Rio, as taken last week by wildlife photographer and Facebook friend, Rebecca Fatzinger, 11-14.)

In closing, I am happy that some birds are doing well in spite of the poor health of the Indian River Lagoon. And I have to say that with no disrespect to the turkey, I am glad the eagle is our national bird!

Benjamin Franklin preferred the turkey to the eagle as he felt the eagle was of "bad moral character" as it sometimes steals food from other birds of prey and other eagles.
Benjamin Franklin preferred the wild turkey to the bald eagle as our national bird  as he felt the eagle was of “bad moral character…”

_______________________________________________________

Florida Wildlife Commission: Managing Bald Eagles: (http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/managed/bald-eagle/)

Florida Nature: Bald Eagles: (http://www.floridiannature.com/eagleandospreyraptors.htm)

J.W. Corbett Wildlife Area, Palm Beach County, FL: (http://myfwc.com/viewing/recreation/wmas/lead/jw-corbett)

 

 

Bird Island/Indian River Lagoon, One of Florida’s Most Important Avian Breeding Grounds

Bird Island is one of the most productive breeding grounds for more than 15 species of birds and a rookery/visiting grounds to even more species. The island is owned by the state of Florida and managed by Martin County. It is located 400 feet from the Town of Sewall’s Point. (Most photos by Greg Braun, Sustainable Ecosystems International, story below.)

IMG_2346_3 IMG_2350 IMG_2353_2

Wood stork w nestling at MC-2 - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Wood Stork w nesting material near MC-2 Braun

Just over three years ago, I was going through I guess a kind of mid-life crisis where I really was questioning what I was doing with my life. When I couldn’t seem to get it together, I decided to spend some time going back to “my roots,” to the things that made me happy as a kid. I called up family friend Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours in Port Salerno, and asked her if I could volunteer on her boat a couple of times a week. She obliged, and slowly, I felt my passion for life return while being surrounded by the animals and birds in the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. The highlight of every tour was “Bird Island,” located off my “very own” Sewall’s Point, as I was mayor of the town at the time.

I had seen the birds from far away, but to see the beautifully colored birds, especially their babies, through binoculars up close was incredible.

Bird Island, located in the Indian River Lagoon, just 400 feet off of the Sewall’s Point’s Archipelago is one of the most valuable nesting bird habitats along Florida’s east coast, really in all of Florida. Rarely are so many different kinds of birds in one location, breeding…

A wonder of nature, birds of all kinds fill the island, over 40 types visiting or roosting and at least 15 species of birds simultaneouly raising young.  At any time of late fall through spring hundreds of birds sometimes over a thousand, some say more, fill the island.

Greg Braun, of Sustainable Ecosystems International, was hired by Martin County for avian monitoring September 2011 thorough August 2012 and he documented observing 240  pairs of birds of 15 species nesting including the Wood Stork; Brown Pelican; Double-crested  Cormorant; Great Egret; Cattle Egret; Anhinga; Tri-colored Heron; Snowy Egret; Great Blue Heron; Litle Blue Heron; Black-crowned Night Heron; Great White Heron; Roseate Spoonbill; Black Vulture; Oystercatcher; and suspected White Ibis and a couple of  invasive Egyptian Geese.

So why this island? There are plenty of others to choose from in the area. Maybe it is for protection? Maybe its the eastern sandbar that keeps boaters at bay and gives the chicks a place to practice swimming and flying and the older birds can just hang out? Maybe its the nearby western seagrasses with its rich production of fish.

Nobody really knows but obviously the birds like it. Originally Bird Island, more scientifically known as “MC-2” was created in the 1940s as a by-product of dredging the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, (Braun, Avian Monitoring). My mother, historian, Sandra Thurlow, says there are verbal accounts of birds nesting on the island since the 60s and 70s, but again nobody is really sure when it began…

Man’s involvement remains controversial with the removal of tall Australian Pines a few years  back that the amazing Frigate Birds sat on, and then the building of a $600,000, 400 foot long rip-rap on the island’s northern side by Martin County to offset documented erosion. Now in the process is the Florida Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) possible creation of a  CWA or Critical Wildlife Area so that trespassing onto or very near the island would be a crime.

Personally, I think the  bird’s habitat should be very protected as the importance of the island is obvious and it is a rare thing. As far as the CRA status, the County is working through issues with local fishermen who use the area for bait catching, and other users of the area surrounding the island. I do hope some higher level of protection can be met.

Right now, signs surround the island in hopes of giving the birds the privacy they need to  raise their chicks, but curious kayakers and others often go very close flushing the birds off their nest, with masses of crows waiting  close by, putting the chicks at risk.  Sun exposure can also kill the young chicks. People don’t mean to but they often do disturb the island.

Another common problem is fishing line. Nancy Beaver and the FWC when in the area often see birds entangled in monofilament caught in the mangroves. Many birds are taken to the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center and saved; but many more are euthanized due to emaciation.

Bird Island was definitely affected by last year’s putrid release water from Lake Okeechobee and the other canals as is visible in an aerial photograph included in this blog.  During the releases, 85 percent of seagrasses died last summer according  to Florida Oceanographic Society. The bird’s feeding was/is certainly affected by such loss.

In the end, I do believe everyone agrees that Bird Island is an amazing place. Let’s get along like the many birds do and protect it! And if you have not seen it, maybe put it on your list of things to do!

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Sunshine Wildlife Tours: (http://sunshinewildlifetours.com)

Audubon Martin County: (http://audubonmartincounty.org/index.php/home/item/51-bird-island-martin-countys-special-place)

Sustainable Ecosystems International: (http://sustainableecosystemsinternational.com)bird island releases

Bird Island, Greg Braun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC-2 GBraun Oystercatcher on beach - GBraun OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Green heron -GBraun Little Blue Heron - GBraun Frigatebirds at MC-2 GBraun greg, mike and pelican OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_1092 IMG_1166 susan Bird Island DSC_9203e OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA MC2 CWA Revised Boundary 5-20-13

 

Fishing-line, Transparent Death

Banded Brown Pelican, Bird Island, died struggling to escape fishing line 2/14
Banded Brown Pelican, Bird Island, died struggling to escape fishing line in the Indian River Lagoon. 2/16/14

Not a fun photo to see, but one that needs to be seen. This brown pelican was found at Bird Island, or MC-2, a well known  bird rookery, just 100 feet off of Sewall’s Point. The bird, like many others, had become entangled in transparent fishing line, and in its struggle actually pulled its foot off trying to escape. Unfortunately,  the line was caught around the metal band as well.

In 2012, when I was mayor of Sewall’s Point, I worked closely with The Florida Wildlife Commission and Martin County as they built a break wall to stabilize the erosion on  the north end of Bird Island. During this time, they were required to monitor the island. On average, there were one to two birds per week found tangled in fishing line during this time. Many were euthanized as they were emaciated and weakened; a few recovered for a second chance, at the Treasure Coast Wildlife Center, http://www.tcwild.org. This was an eye opening experience for me. What of all the birds that are never reported or found when they are not monitoring? Transparent death…

Personally, I don’t see how these magnificent water birds can  keep their population numbers up with such terrible odds.

Let’s help them out and be sure to safely throw away our fishing line.

If you find an entangled bird call the Sheriff’s Department,  Animal Control at 772-220-7170.

The above pelican was found by Sunshine Wildlife Tours operator, Captain Nancy Beaver, she states:

“This is why I don’t like metal banding of birds! I have seen many lose a foot or die
because they don’t release. This poor bird was alive when I found him and he had ripped his foot off attempting to free himself.” http://www.sunshinewildlifetours.com