by Judy Stevens
Grassy Island, the small, privately-owned island in Crooked Lake just south of Breezy Point, has become an overnight gathering destination for a large number of waterbirds. For at least the past year, birds have been flying in to roost overnight in a row of punk trees (Melaleuca quinquenervia, a native of Australia and invasive in Florida) along the shore on the west side of the island.
Bird species that arrive nightly include: Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis, and Anhinga. Usually the trees are so full that the birds have to jockey for position, which can be quite entertaining.
Other birds commonly seen nearby include: Belted Kingfisher, American Coot, Common Gallinule, Purple Gallinule, Wood Duck, Boat-tailed Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Osprey, and more. On a recent night a Northern Harrier (hawk that winters here) flew in, landing on a bush in the water and causing a lot of consternation. Last spring there were also two Great Blue Heron nests in close proximity.
For birders or anyone interested in nature, this is an opportunity to get a great view of a lot of birds, to compare bird species, and to observe their behavior in a mixed group. Binoculars are a necessity, and access to this nightly show is by boat only. Arrive a half hour before sunset, approach slowly and quietly, and stay a good distance from shore. You will not be disappointed!