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I’ve come to the Indrio Savannahs Preserve to catch sight of a sandhill crane.

IMG_2320 297 acres of scrub, flat woods and a lake. Three and a half miles of trails through pine, palmetto and scrub oak. It’s bewitching. 

The preserve is a jumbled mess that looks like it’s either just past its prime or not quite there yet. Spindly oaks that are hundreds of years old sway in the breeze.  Saw palmettos wave at the sky, waist-high scuffles of Stegosaurus-like plates. Every so often, a bare patch of fine white sugar sand carpets the trail.

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Along the lake and depression marshes, birders come to see waders, migrant ducks, bitterns, and sand hill cranes, scrub jays, bald eagles, osprey, and roseate spoonbills.

IMG_2328You might say it’s a case of arrested development. Indrio Savannahs was a gleam in a developer’s eye more than a decade ago, but the subdivision never got off the ground.  Only a mile from the Indian River Lagoon as the heron flies, the savannahs of Indrio are expansive freshwater wetlands that are an important stopping point for migratory birds and a gathering place for wading birds at dusk.

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It’s also home to Florida scrub-jays.  I haven’t seen one yet, except for a painting on the outbuilding. They’re certainly not shy.

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The Florida scrub-jay is the state’s only endemic bird species and an icon of the parched, sandy hills on the island. This bird is a bundle of contradictions: a jay that’s afraid of flying; a suburban bird that can’t survive in the suburbs; an endangered species that will perch on your head. Unlike its adaptable jay and crow relatives, this species seems incapable of surviving anywhere except in the scrub.

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The loop trails are actually rectangular because the entire property was plotted – and roads built – for the development that never happened.

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Welcome!

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There are the usual trail notes ~ be prepared for sun, excessive heat, or sudden thunderstorms; make sure you have plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and insect repellent; trails are uneven, so be cautious and aware of your surroundings.

And then, this ~ You may encounter an American alligator, feral hog, or a poisonous snake. Please observe all wildlife at a safe distance.

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Well. That put my brain in high def. But, look around.  It’s Eden refreshed. Besides, I’m totally confident there’s a sandhill crane around the bend. What are the chances that I’ll have a bare-knuckle encounter with a fearful tough Florida beast?

Does this count?

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I didn’t see a snake, hog, or alligator. Or a sandhill crane.

Driving through a neighborhood on my way home, I slowed down to admire some aquatic mammals.

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Guess what? Even sandhill cranes are sweet on Moby-Dick-size manatees.

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IMG_2278Toni 2/24/14

4 thoughts on “STALKING THE SANDHILL CRANE

  1. Once found myself stalked by a Sandhill Crane! Stopped at a light at Crescent
    Beach, I heard this unearthly sound! Sure something was wrong with my car, I turned
    down the radio and lowered the window on the passenger side. The head you
    have pictured with the red around its eye, poked his head ever so slightly in the
    window and then quickly backed away. I was stunned! Since then I have learned
    that Sandhills often take a break here while heading home to the Midwest. This was
    quite an experience…probably for the crane as well!

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    1. Oh Sayra, I’d love to have been a mole cricket in the grass that night when the Crane family members gathered to tell about their day. My sighting was a silent one, need to find another so I can hear its bugling/rattling sound. My iphoto gave it more than just red eye! I’ve got my eye on a kingfisher we see in the morning and evening as we drive in and out, not sure I can get close to the shy guy.

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  2. A few years ago birders from around New England flocked (!!) to Durham or Middletown (can’t remember which) where a Sandhill Crane was gleaning corn from harvested corn field opposite house # 54. Since he was being “cooperative” our birding group made the trip with scope and binoculars to record this unusual sighting. He was still–as promised–opposite #54! What a treat.

    I love these pieces, Toni.
    Patty

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