Birding Indian River County’s Treasures

The President’s Hoot
by Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
September 2011

Audubon of Florida has a new initiative of identifying each chapter’s “Special Places,” see ( Not being able to choose just one, we have selected 5 to highlight this year with field trips and special information on our website.  Over half of the bird species found in North America (969) are found in Florida (562).  Nearly half of these have been reported as seen on in Indian River County (276). One commonly sees many birds i.e. wood storks, great egrets, great blue herons, hawks around the ditches and canals along the roads we take to get groceries, mail a letter, go to work, or walk in our backyard.  Truly, one of the best places to bird is “Right here in Indian River County.”  In addition, we are blessed with at least eleven great birding sites in our county and five others nearby. 

PIAS’s Five Special Places as part of the Audubon of Florida Program:

  1.  Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA) one of the Great Florida Birding Trails (GFBT), provides 440 acres along the Indian River Lagoon in south county comprised of scrubby pinewoods, coastal hammock, freshwater and saltmarsh/mangrove wetlands, and a springtime bonus, a bird rookery, on an adjacent spoil island.  Birds easily seen include wading and shore birds, osprey, owls, and eagles   Canoes are available for PIAS members to explore the nearby lagoon.  Through the adjacent Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida, and PIAS, a Volunteer Stewardship Core Class starts on January 28th to train volunteers on all aspects of the environment for our county conservation lands.  It meets Sunday afternoons 1:30 to 4:30 pm from January 28-March 3, 2012.  Contact Class Coordinator, Janice Broda with any questions:, 772-778-7200 x173
  2. St. Sebastian River Preserve State Park including the St. Sebastian River is one of the largest of Florida’s state parks, but one of the least used.  Also on the GFBT, this is a great place to see red-cockaded woodpeckers, Bachman’s sparrows, and scrub-jays.  This park is a top birding locations during migration to catch a view of swallow-tailed kites, various songbirds, hawks, hummingbirds, robins, sandhill cranes, wood storks, eagles, American kestrels, and meadowlarks.  There are a number of horseback riding and hiking trails, and a canoe dock near a primitive camping site on the St. Sebastian River.
  3. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge is the nation’s first wildlife refuge being so proclaimed by President T. Roosevelt in 1903 (and namesake of our chapter).  PINWR is continuing to function as a major rookery for the brown pelican, roseate spoonbill, and many egrets and herons.  The refuge has been expanded around the island itself offing various hiking trails, observation towers overlooking Pelican Island and wetlands.  The park is under new management and PIAS will be assisting in leading scheduled tours in the near future.  Bob Montanaro, our office administrator, has produced an excellent documentary program and website featuring two years watching osprey mating, nesting, and raising their young (  For more information or to schedule a presentation, please e-mail
  4. Blue Cypress Lake is one of Indian River County’s biggest secrets, one of its jewels.  The only way to see the great wildlife and scenery there is via a boat (launching from the landing at the county park on the west side of the lake adjacent to Middleton Fish Camp).  Although many bird species are found there, it is best known for its large population of nesting ospreys.  During one January, over 150 nests were documented.  It is a county park and primitive tent and RV camping sites are available free with adjacent toilets and showers. Additional information and in a book published by PIAS, Reflections of Blue Cypress available in the Vero Beach Book Center or our office (less than 100 copies left)
  5. Sebastian Inlet State Park is a GFBT with over 180 species recorded including waders and shorebirds with views of the ocean to see gannets, jaegers, shearwaters, and petrels, and mangrove migratory songbirds.  PIAS has a short video for beginning birders taken from this site by Bob Barbour and Juanita Baker to help identify storks, herons, egrets, osprey, laughing gulls and terns.  Visit our website or YouTube Basic Birding to see it. 

PIAS has greatly expanded the number of field trips for the 2011-12 season to about 1 every week from September through May. Listed in this issue and on our website, including our expanded speaker series at the North County Library so our north county members won’t have to travel so far.  These trips are not just for birders but also for photographers, butterfly, insect, plant, nature lovers, curious adventurers, and outdoor exercisers.  Come join us on at least one of them! Don’t miss our special places!

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