Night Symphony and a Close Encounter

We have learned to keep an open mind when plans don’t seem to gel as we had originally hoped, so as not to miss the beauty at our fingertips.  That was to be the case with last minute reservations made at Savannas Recreation Area in Fort Pierce, when we could not get reservations at a preferred state park.

Campground view
Campground view

Savannas Recreation Area covers 550 acres and five distinct biological territories.  Our camp site, like most, looks out onto a meandering lagoon, literally ten large steps from our door.  Trails through the prairies and marshes criss-cross the park, a beautiful, serene setting.

There is plenty to do in and around Fort Pierce, a local farmers’ market ranked second-best in the state, a historic downtown, the Navy Seal museum, and bike trails and white-sand beaches across the causeway on North and South Hutchinson Islands to while away a sunny day.

Even with much to do outside our back door, most days our contentment is found on the paths and walkways inside the campground, where we are never without birdsong, and an amazing variety of wading birds foraging or soaring overhead.  Each day as light moves to dark the night symphony builds to a crescendo, bullfrogs, a multitude of winged insects, and numerous birds joining in the chorus.  Standing outside, peering into obscurity, we feel as if in a jungle, particularly when the limpkin, a bird we have not seen since Shark Valley, joins in the ensemble.  Much easier heard than seen, it seems this beautiful bird does its best singing after dark, not that it has a great singing voice, more a loud wail or scream.  I have read that his call was used quite often for jungle sound effects in Tarzan films, sounding more like an ape than a bird.

At check-in we were told that a pair of sandhill crane were nesting across the lagoon in the marsh.  We had not seen this magnificent bird since our Yellowstone days and were excited to catch a glimpse.

One late afternoon while wandering through the park, we spotted two rather tall birds strolling up the road.  Walking quietly with camera at the ready, I was prepared for them to fly away as we moved closer, as most birds are prone to do.  Much to my surprise they continued to wander, paying little attention to us as they fed in the grasses.

These were the sandhill cranes I was hoping for.  There is no difference in appearance between a mating male and female, except that the female is a bit smaller.   These elegant birds stand 4.5 – 5 feet tall, weighing in at 10-14 pounds and are said to be fairly social.  They make a trumpeting or trilling sound that can be heard from a great distance, engaging in “unison calling”, standing close together singing a synchronized elaborate duet.  And when in the mood, they do a dance that has a gangly grace to it.  We felt fortunate that they shared all of this and more with us on this particular day.

Before out visit was over, the male allowed me to sit literally three feet from him, watching him preen, with an occasional tilt of the head in my direction as I quietly spoke to him.  Terry wished he had a camera turned on me, as the look on my face was that of pure joy.  I felt honored to be allowed so close.

At Savannas we have found serenity in the richness of nature and alluring details in the night that quite often are overlooked.  We are once again reminded of the awe inspired when we live in the moment.

Sunrise over Indian River Lagoon
Sunrise over Indian River Lagoon