There is so much to be thankful for in spite of the difficulties we face with the health of our river, as well as our nation and the world. This week, I will be taking a blog break in order to “take time to be grateful.” Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday and of course Thursday is Thanksgiving, a time to spend with family and friends. Before I break, I thought you might enjoy this photo of a wild turkey that flew over the St Lucie River to rest in Sewall’s Point. She appears to be feeling rather grateful to be taking such a nice rest right under the American flag…See you next week.
In 2008 there was a flock of about seven wild turkeys that would fly over from Hell’s Gate across the St Lucie River and visit my street, Riverview, as well as others right here in Sewall’s Point.
The first time I saw them, I thought they were peacocks as there were peacocks here at the time, before the mail man ran over the male and the rest got eaten by bobcats.
At closer look, the tailless peacocks or very brown peahens were skinny, nervous, running wild turkeys! Ed had seen them too, very early in the morning on the way to work, and sent me a photo from his phone. We really enjoyed seeing them!
Over about the course of a year, I really came to like them, and began to feel bad about eating their fat, farmed cousins for Thanksgiving…Since about 2011 they have not visited. I wish them, wherever they may be, as well as you, and your family, a very Happy Thanksgiving this week. In spite of life’s difficulties, there is so much to be thankful for…
On a river note, we have the attention of of government for the Indian River Lagoon, and things may get better, if we keep pushing and calling attention to the river’s plight and how important it is in our lives.
For the Thanksgiving week, I will be taking a “blog break” to spend time with my local family, visiting relatives, and celebrate Ed’s birthday; he turns 58 today! 🙂
See you next week! And if you see a wild turkey, wish it a Happy Thanksgiving and tell it we’d love to have it and its family back in Sewall’s Point!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!