St. Lucie Audubon Society

The family of Limpkins was the highlight of this trip. This chick is probably no more than three weeks old.



This field trip, originally scheduled for Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, was changed at the last minute to the Rich Grissom Memorial Wetlands at Viera because of the extreme weather forecast for the Titusville/MINWR area. Another factor in the rescheduling was the dearth of birds found during scouting on Friday, January 6th, because of the combination of the very low water levels in the refuge and the fact that duck hunting season had just opened, causing many skittish ducks to head for safer areas.

The change to Viera proved to be a good one, for despite gray overcast skies and occasional light rain, the group never suffered the thunder storms and extreme weather that hit the Titusville area, 30 miles farther north, and there were many more birds at Viera than were found while scouting the previous day in the MINWR refuge. 52 species of birds were found by 15 participants.

The unquestioned highlight of the trip for all participants was watching a pair of Limpkins working hard, oblivious to the spectators, catching Apple Snails, extracting the meat and feeding two young featherless baby Limpkins, probably no more than three weeks old. The feeding show went on for quite some time, with the parents finding snails and literally running through the marsh with their catch, directly to the youngsters. The experience was a first for all participants.

Other highlights were the sighting of Wilson’s Snipe (right), both flying and observed through the telescope; several Roseate Spoonbills (left); a female Northern Harrier, both flying and later perched; a male Lesser Scaup; the always attractive Hooded Mergansers; a couple of different American Bitterns; and good looks at both Caspian and Forster’s Terns.

Nine members of the group enjoyed a late lunch at Panera’s, and later in the afternoon, after lunch and a brief shopping break, leaders, Hart and Jewel Rufe, returned for another late trip around the Wetlands when they were treated to excellent views of a posing Wilson’s Snipe and a Crested Caracara that unfortunately had not shown up earlier for the entire group.

Report and photos submitted by Hart Rufe

Click photos for larger versions

52 species of birds

American Bittern

Blue-winged Teal

Caspian Tern

  • Waterfowl:  Mottled Duck; Blue-winged Teal; Ring-necked Duck; Lesser Scaup; Hooded Merganser; Northern Shoveler
  • Loons & Grebes: Pied-billed Grebe
  • Storks: Woodstork
  • Pelicaniformes: American White Pelican; Double-crested Cormorant;  Anhinga
  • Wading Birds:   American Bittern; Great Blue Heron; Great Egret; Snowy Egret; Little Blue Heron; Cattle Egret; Tricolored Heron; Green Heron; Black-crowned Night-Heron; White Ibis; Glossy Ibis; Roseate Spoonbill  
  • Raptors & Allies: Black Vulture; Turkey Vulture; Osprey; Northern Harrier; Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Rails & Gallinules: Common Gallinule; American Coot
  • Limpkins & Cranes: Limpkin; Sandhill Crane
  • Shorebirds:  Wilson’s Snipe
  • Gulls, Terns: Caspian Tern; Forster’s Tern
  • Pigeons and Doves: Mourning Dove; Eurasian Collared-Dove; Rock Pigeon
  • Kingfishers:  Belted Kingfisher
  • Falconidae: Crested Caracara
  • Empidonax:  Eastern Phoebe
  • Shrikes: Loggerhead Shrike
  • Thrushes: American Robin
  • Wood Warblers:  Palm Warbler; Common Yellowthroat; Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Sparrows: Savannah Sparrow
  • Blackbirds: Red-winged Black-Bird; Boat-tailed Grackle; Common Grackle
Also: Red-bellied Woodpecker and House Sparrow at Paneras.

Hooded Merganser

Lesser Scaup

Northern Harrier, fem

Ring-necked duck

Savannah Sparrow

Crested Caracara