Those who know me understand my passion for wildlife and “jaunts in nature”. Glorious day when the weather allows me to venture out to discover beauty all over again. Today would be no different and this trail was laden with all types of butterflies.
Pelican Island, located in Florida’s Indian River, was the first unit of the USA’s National Wildlife Refuge System!! And today was investigating once again a piece of history, preserved land where once other famed naturalists and ornithologists roamed. Thanks to them the path has been made clear, secure, nature protected and grounds now solemn.
It’s documented as many as 60 roseate spoonbills were killed per day on Pelican Island during the early part of the century; the “Feather Wars”. Wood Storks, Spoonbills, Ibis, Great White Egrets and Herons were all close to extinction. Why? Sadly they were being killed for vanity, feathers for expensive hats.
And here I was walking where these poachers tread and some great hero’s who fought for the slaughter to stop. As I ventured down the trail saw a lone bird, looked like a juvenile Ibis or maybe it was a Limpkin, hard to tell without any binoculars. Already looked totally nerdy with one 35mm around my neck and my 500 mm balanced on my shoulder, yes I was armed to the max. Was able to snap a picture before he flew off, actually it’s as if he was leading the way!
So when I got to “Joe’s Overlook” I said a prayer entering to what felt like Holy Ground and as I peered over to the left what did I see but a lone Roseate Spoonbill!
That bird was looking directly at me, sweet thing. And then a lifer, my very first reddish Egret flew in!! There they were together and I just held my breath and fired away! Yup and not for a feather in my hat!
Again, overwhelmed by the beauty of the moment tears escaped from my eyes. If it wasn’t for the mosquito’s I think I would have stayed a bit longer. Definitely long enough to get as many snapshots as I could.
Making my way back towards home, looking up saw another amazing discovery, SPIDERS who made their web way above a human head! Again was giving thanks and thinking how adaptable nature is, intelligent indeed! They were feasting on flying insects, also on the trail signs of other predators and remnants of life. So much to discover here.
It wasn’t until I started putting this blog together I found out a local resident, Paul Kroegel, who cared about the pelicans on the island became the staunch protector and enlisted the support of noted ornithologists, such as Frank Chapman, who helped establish the Audubon Societies. At the urging of Mr. Kroegel, the Florida Audubon Society, and the American Ornithologists’ Union, President Theodore Roosevelt signed an Executive Order on March 14, 1903 that permanently set aside the three-acre island as a wildlife sanctuary; and made Pelican Island the first National Wildlife Refuge in the US! You can imagine my astonishment as this refuge was just a few miles from my new residence.
Since then, the National Wildlife Refuge system has grown to become the world’s largest network of lands managed for wildlife with over 500 refuges totaling over 93 million acres.
There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”
― George Gordon Byron