Tag Archives: Critical Wildlife Area

Protecting Bird Island from Kayakers and Lake Okeechobee Discharges

Bird Island, officially known as MC2, is a “no trespassing zone,” with ten large signs around it stating Critical Wildlife Area or (CWA). Recently, there have been complaints to the Florida Wildlife Commission from Sewall’s Point residents that kayakers have been getting on the island to view the birds flushing them from their nests. Terrible! Exposed chicks and eggs are a delicacy for crows and other predators. Bird Island is a state recognized breeding ground for multiple species of endangered and threatened wading birds. It is protected.

This past Wednesday, April 13, 2021, I accompanied the Florida Wildlife Commission and Martin County to do an official state bird count. There were over 300 birds mid-day and the number of nests will be estimated next week. The sound of the nestlings was unceasing with chicks begging for food as parents chirped and clapped back. Incredible! Chicks were hidden down in the mangroves but older ones were perched outside looking around, looking a lot like their parents. I was told it appeared to be an “average year.” It looked pretty good to me!

Today, I share photos and videos. Hopefully these will quench the thirst of those who may want to break the law. Bird Island can be viewed from outside the sign area, but not inside. FWC law enforcement is increasing visibility in the area and hopefully anyone out and about who sees a disturbance will call 1-888-404-3922. 

The most wonderful thing I learned was that since 2010, when I first met Ricardo Zambrero of FWC and the idea with the Town of Sewall’s Point, Nancy Beaver of Sunshine Wildlife Tours, and Martin County crystalized into a hard fought CWA-designation in 2014 ~ the beautiful pink roseate spoonbills have gone from rookery visitors to successful nesters! Last year over thirty roseate spoonbills were reported on the island, young and mature. I saw many the day of the count. Younger birds are lighter in color and one adult bird I saw sitting on a nest was almost red where body met wings.

This incredible place must be protected from curios visitors, just as we must protect if from polluted discharge waters from Lake Okeechobee!

Thank you FWC.

-Approaching Bird Island off South Sewall’s Point in the Indian River Lagoon-A menagerie of birds! A very diverse crew! Strength in numbers!-Wood storks, and roseate spoonbills-Magnificent frigate birds-Wood storks and frigate birds-Signs are posted around the entire island-Martin County works to protect the island from erosion caused by boat wakes and storms

-Wood storks on nests on black mangroves-Another view. Two large black mangroves died in Hurricane Irma in 2017. A huge loss of habitat.-JTL, SFWMD; Ricard Zambrero & Andrea Peyeyra, FWC; and Mike Yustin, M.C.-A pink rosette spoonbill against a blue sky-I think these are cormorants but they sure look like loons!INCREDIBLE VIDEOS

-Bird Island south side distant and up close

-Roseate Spoonbill flies overhead

-Many types especially wood storks, great egrets, and a juvenile  brown pelican

-Brown pelican flies from island – view of many birds

-East side of island rocks to protect from erosion. Oyster catchers have nested here!

 

-Earlier blog post about Bird Island and diversity of species. 

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.)

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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