Sounds Among the Silence

Turkey Creek Sanctuary, Palm Bay, FloridaBy Judy Berman

The cicadas’ shrill rattle disrupts the silence on our stroll thru Turkey Creek’s 130-acre sanctuary in Palm Bay, Florida.

Laurel Oak trees hung heavy with moss loom over the sandy soil along the creek. Palm trees crowd the shore.

Sweat pours off me even on this leisurely stroll. The heat is unrelenting, inescapable – even when we’re tucked into a shady spot under a covered bridge.

Creek Overlook Vista, Turkey Creek SancutaryFirst, we venture to the Creek Overlook Vista which “stands on an ancient sand dune – formed about 11,000 years ago when the sea level was much higher,” according to the Sanctuary’s self-guided nature trail brochure.

The hike along the nearly 2-mile boardwalk is deceptive. Each time it appears the path has ended, another crook in the trail reveals itself.

Sunlight and shadows play tricks in the muddy water. The occasional breeze brings some relief, and I am thankful we brought bottled water.

Turkey Creek SanctuaryAn eerie sound begins, first as a shudder and then builds to a crescendo as it moves thru the hammock.

A warning sign that some intruder is in the forest? Or, is this just nature’s way of clearing its throat to remind me that “I was here first.”

Years earlier, I sat by the canoe deck and was calmed by ripples in the dark tea-colored water. The color is the “result of tannin leached from leaves. The muddy brown color is due to the large amount of sediment in the runoff from the city.”

The unexpected noise distracts me from my lonely reverie. I hear a gurgle as if thru a blow hole. About 20 feet from the bridge, a shiny snout tentatively surfaces.

West Indian manatee in Florida waters
West Indian manatee in Florida waters

A manatee’s head emerges. Then he ducks back into the water.

Seconds later, I see his 8-foot-long golden-brown shadow glide quietly just beneath the creek’s surface.

I try not to make a sound as I edged along the bridge’s railing. I watch in awe until the manatee is out of sight.

just out for a stroll
just out for a stroll

This visit there was no manatee sighting. Disappointing. We saw about a dozen  turtles – mostly Florida Cooters – and a Florida Softshell, which has a pointed snout, swim up near the deck and check us out.

turtles paddling along
turtles paddling along

A turtle paddles both his front and back feet before lowering his head and diving underwater.

Even a bug’s efforts are fascinating. It struggles mightily against the tide, moving upstream in short spurts.

wild coffee
wild coffee

On our way out, we pass a shrub with wild olives among its dark evergreen leaves. A wild coffee shrub, with glossy leaves, has dark red berries. These berries were used by early Florida pioneers to brew a caffeinated drink.

Beauty berry
Beauty berry

We stop at the Gazebo. A couple emerges from the trail with their dogs. One of the dogs carries the bottled water they get to indulge in from their collapsible dog dishes.

Then, a car’s shrill alarm pierces the silence. A reminder that civilization is just a short distance away.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Video: Sounds among the silence at Turkey Creek Sanctuary, Palm Bay, Florida (taken by Judy Berman, 9-8-13)

All photos taken at Turkey Creek Sanctuary by Judy Berman on 9-8-13:

  • Main Photo: Welcome to Turkey Creek sign
  • View from Creek Overlook Vista
  • Do Not Feed Alligators sign
  • Squirrel on boardwalk
  • Turtles in creek
  • Wild Coffee
  • Beauty Berry

Photo: manatee – a West Indian manatee in Florida waters – Photo from U.S. Geological Fact Sheet. Also known as ‘the gentle sea cow’

  1. Familiar with such. I like the turtles best. It always struck me as unrealistic when they make movies in environments like this without the people slapping at moskeeters all the time.

    1. Thankfully, there were no mosquito issues. Maybe it was the time of the day. Dave, my hubby, says when we went – between 3 and 4 p.m. – it’s the hottest cuz the sun’s been beating down all day. So maybe the skeeters were laying in wait for the cooler temps. 🙂

      1. Of course. They’re in the AC like everyone else !

        comment from earthrider to Carl D’Agostino:
        I think Brevard County was once known as Mosquito County. That’s the only thing, apparently, that could survive this heat. The introduction of AC is what motivated more folks to move to Florida. 🙂

    1. I wish that I had my camera with me when I saw it several years ago, Kate. A week ago, one day after we went to the Sanctuary, I went to another park in hopes of taking photos of manatees there. I waited with camera in hand for about an hour — no luck!

  2. You paint an idyllic picture with your words judy, apart from the heat that is 🙂
    Spotting that manatee must have been so exciting. Pity there was no repeat performance.

    1. Thank you, Madhu. I am a real wimp when it comes to the heat. With the cold, you can layer. With the heat, there’s only so far you can go before they call the legion of decency. 🙂

      I was disappointed that the manatee was a no-show. But we live close enough that we’ll get plenty of opportunities to see one.

  3. Fascinating place! And it’s a world away from the kind of life I live! The whole time I was reading, your descriptions and the pictures were making me think of that old movie The African Queen! They perspired buckets – for the movie anyway! Although I believe most of the film was shot in Africa, so maybe that sweat on them was real after all!! 😀

    Not sure how you cope with heat like that, I know I wouldn’t, I’d be sitting back in the car with the cool air conditioning blowing over me! Is it normally that hot where you live, or more to do with that area of Florida?

    That Manatee looks kind of sweet – but maybe not. Are they good natured creatures or do you have to be a bit wary of what they might do?

    And those berries look like a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry with a strange looking colour, very interesting, I’ve not seen them before.

    I love the sign (Do not feed the alligators!) is this because it’s bad for them to eat rubbish food or for the safety of the visitors? I’m guessing it might be both!! Kind of makes those signs in the parks of (Do not feed the ducks) seem a little irrelevant!! 😀

    1. Bogart and Hepburn (Katherine) probably weren’t faking it. 🙂

      I’m not the bellwether to look to as an indicator on how hot it is. To me, it’s hot at least 10 months of the year. I lived in Pennsylvania and Central New York for (Syracuse, Liverpool and Oswego County) until 1999. You can adjust for the cold – layering. As I explained to Madhu, above, you can only shed so much apparel to be cool until the cops are called. 😆

      I’ve seen people pet the manatees and feed them. Both are against the law. Their nickname is “gentle sea cow” and they do seem sweet.

      The reason you are not to feed alligators, bears, deer, etc. is they get used to humans. Their natural tendency should be to avoid you. When they see you as a food source, they could become very dangerous. “No food to offer? Well,” sez Mr. Alligator, “I guess I’ll feed on you.” They become very aggressive, view humans and their pets as prey, and then they have to be “harvested.”

  4. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I love your photos and I would never want to feed an alligator 🙂 Annie

  5. I enjoyed the entire stroll with you, Judy, except for the seat-dripping heat (had enough of that here, thank you), but I LOVED the manatee sighting! The only manatees I’ve ever seen were in captivity, but even seen through a glass wall, they’re fascinating.

    1. We would have been delighted to have your company, Marilyn. It is a beautiful spot. I wish we’d seen a manatee this time, but I’m happy I have seen some in the wild. They are so cool!

  6. It sounds like a wonderful place to visit.
    Actually, you sort of took me right there with you in your description
    Thank you for sharing, Judy! 🙂

  7. Wonderful! I’m crossing Florida off my vacation list– I know an actual visit there could not possibly compare to this post… : )

    I think my favorite part was when you stepped onto the alligator’s back to take the picture of the manatee. My favorite line was “even a bug’s efforts are fascinating”– I could really identify with that somehow… : )

    Lovely post, Judy, wonderful photos. Just delightful– many thanks!!

    1. Sheesh! Now, you’ll have the state Tourist gurus hunting for me cuz I chased you away from the Sunshine State. While I appreciate your heady praise, Mark, I really cannot capture – in words – just how wonderful this place is.

      W-a-i-t a minute! Stepped on an alligator’s back to take a photo of a manatee? Not even in my wildest imagination. It was actually a smallish frog who leaped to my aid in getting that shot. 🙂

      Glad you liked the photos – and the line about the bug. I didn’t want to trade places with him/her, but I did marvel at nature’s creatures.

  8. You had me at the edge of my sit with the exciting manatee encounter. I wanted to do a kayak manatee adventure in Florida last Summer but my wife was too scared. may be next year. Great, fun post. Thanks.

    1. That sounds like an exciting adventure, IT. But I’m with your wife. My swimming skills are minimal and I’d be afraid that a run “into” the wild might result in a spill into the water. I’m glad you enjoyed my story.

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