The whooshing sound of flapping wings raced past my head as a Tricolored Heron swooped past and landed on the other side of the creek in front of me. It looked back at me, seemingly unconcerned by my presence. I wondered what it was thinking as I inched closer to get a shot. Was it perturbed by my that I was there? Or was it so accustomed to humans that it saw me as nothing more than a mere annoyance? I must not have been that welcome though, as a moment later it squawked loudly in my direction and soared off into the distance.
No matter, I was sure there this wouldn’t be my only opportunity to interact with some birds as I had an entire wildlife refuge in front of me to explore.
I commenced on my hike out into the marshes excited for what I would find. Just a few days earlier I was astounded by the lush and lively atmosphere of Merritt Island and I could only imagine what this refuge would have in store for me. I quickly realized though that, at least the current path I had chosen, was little more than a path through thick vegetation.
I could hear the sound of water lapping against the shore just on the other side of the foliage. Without the noise, you wouldn’t know it was there. The flora was so thick I could only imagine what was on the other side. Here though, there seemed to be not much more than Mangroves and Saw Palmettos. Other than a butterfly hopping from branch to branch, not much action seemed to be happening.
Nonetheless, it was the peaceful atmosphere I was after and the island had that in spades.
Pelican Island has the unique privilege of being Americas first Wildlife Refuge, setting in motion a long list of protected areas to this day. I often wonder where we would be today if Teddy Roosevelt never enacted the national park system. How many species of plants and animals would have been hunted or cleared out of existence if it had not been for the forethought of one man. We can’t say for sure, but with WW1, The Depression and WW2 quickly following the timeline, I have a feeling national lands would have been a distant thought in the minds of politicians.
I am consistently thankful for the legacy he left behind and was constantly reminded of that as I traversed through the mangroves this afternoon.
I noticed a small path into the dense mangroves that led to a clearing to see the water. For the first time that morning I could see the vast blue in front of me, complete with an abundant amount of birds splashing about in the water.
As I watched the Herons and Ibis’ play, I noticed multiple Ospreys perched atop floating logs, waiting for a fish to make itself noticed and in turn, offering an easy meal. I eagerly clicked away as I watched them gaze out into the distance, hoping that one would take off and offer me the perfect picture opportunity. After what seemed like forever (but was probably about an hour), I turned to leave, giving up on waiting. Of course right then one took off but alas it was too late. I missed the moment.
I hiked over to another clearing to have lunch and enjoy the scenery. As I looked at the horizon stretching out in front of me, I couldn’t help but ponder about all the animals that lived here in this unique ecosystem. From the birds of prey, to the fish in the ocean, the mollusks in shells and predators hidden in the bushes, this place seemed like an epitome of diversity.
Often when I return to civilization, I think about days like this and how most people couldn’t care less if they existed or not. It’s a sad state of affairs that has most of us wrapped up too much in the world of humans and the media we create. It would do us all good to remember that places like Pelican Island are hidden in plain sight, just waiting for us to turn off the TV and enjoy them.
Closest Supercharger Vero Beach FL 19 mi
9050 20th St, Vero Beach, FL 32966
Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge
4055 Wildlife Way, Vero Beach, FL 32963