On A1A, where bars and boatslips bustle around the clock and markets sell carambolas in outdoor bins, a mangrove forest invites you in for a walk on the wild side.

I may be a greenhorn in these parts but it’s pretty obvious that Florida is a bird watcher’s paradise.  Loads of pinewoods and maritime hammocks, swamps, salt marshes and beaches provide vital breeding, overwintering, resting and refueling sites for wading birds, shorebirds and waterfowl. I discovered that there are 7800 lakes, 1200 miles of coastline, 825 miles of beaches and 11,000 miles of waterways, plus the showy Everglades. Heaven.


I hiked the trail at the Bear Point Sanctuary near Ft. Pierce. ‘Hike’ in Florida has a whole other meaning. It’s so not about the climb. Surprisingly enough, even though the elevation might only reach 300 feet, pretty dynamic environmental changes occur. 


As for terrain, sometimes there’s slippery mud. Oh, and unexpected wading, clearing the path of spider webs, and fending off problematic critters.

The sanctuary was purchased and restored with funds from St. Lucie County, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Florida Communities Trust. Known for its large mangrove forest that is a habitat for fish and wading birds, it’s part of the 2,000-mile Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail (GFBWT) that connects and unifies over 500 birding and wildlife viewing sites throughout Florida. 


Tropical strays like the Loggerhead Kingbird and Thick-billed Vireo make their way onto birders’ life lists around here. If you’re alert (and lucky) you might even see a Rufous Hummingbird, a Groove-billed Ani or a Green-tailed Towhee.


I follow the unpaved trail in pursuit of all things intriguing.  It leads to an observation platform on the impoundments and two great viewing spots along Bear Point Cove ~ an elevated viewing tower….


…and a 500-foot fishing pier.


Wood Storks, Great Egrets and Roseate Spoonbills are common in the canals and lagoon.  Reddish Egrets, Green Herons and Night Herons skulk in the mangroves. 


I didn’t see a bear. Most folks haven’t. The sanctuary is named for the last recorded Native American Black Bear hunt on Hutchinson Island.  It’s also a mitigation site for enhancing water quality and wildlife habitat, lush with mangroves.


The Black Mangrove sweats out excess salt through its leaves.  On a hot day, you can run your finger on the top of a leaf and feel the salt. (I’m a sucker for new words, especially scientific ones, in Latin, like pneumatophore, that pencil-like root you see above.)IMG_2168Red Mangrove trees shelter small fish and crustaceans.  You can identify a red mangrove by its prop roots that help it stand in water.


I startled this guy on the trail, his gray body lifted up and took wing right under my nose.

Nota bene ~ the mystery and beauty that is Florida’s wild side.


Toni 1/30/14


    1. Ronnie, on my walk yesterday I spotted two binocular-clutching women. Tugged at my heart, they almost looked familiar…except they were in tees and shorts and it was a sunny mid afternoon. 😉 They were ecstatic and let me in on their thrilling find. Post coming soon. Yes, they spotted ……


  1. Yes! The best parts of this state are not seen on the golf courses!!! This note comes from the Northern part of the Florida Birding Trail. Welcome Toni and Jim!


    1. Sayra, I’m finding that out. Although I once saw an owl on the course. There’s so much water that it’s an attraction for scads of critters. But I think there’s nothing like leaving the beaten path, no matter where you are. T


      1. I’m further south for the winter months, in Deerfield Beach, but one of my BFFs (an original Bridge Clubber ~ she’s in the book!) lives in Fort Pierce now. I often pop up for a visit. The combination of arts and nature in that area is quite remarkable, as you have noticed!


  2. Toni,
    Mayhap you and Jim could meet David Simpson–see http://birdingwithdavidsimpson.blogspot.com. I got to go birding with him this October and single-handedly he changed my bias toward Florida. As we waited in the pre-dawn glimmer where David had taken for just this event, suddenly a Red-cockaded Woodpecker emerged from his tree cavity on the Pine Flatlands (hope I have this right). So, keep sending pictures and words from that place that I have formerly disparaged and now see to be quite delightful. (The birder in me wants to come visit.)


    1. I checked him out, he does flit about, doesn’t he? Mostly in the keys, inland and north of here. Thx for the info because I followed an events link and stumbled onto the birding/wildlife festival schedule. :). There’s a woman naturalist who does boat trips to the tiny islands downriver, it’s on our to-do list. T


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