Bimini's Isle: a sanctuary for birds

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Fri, 06/30/2017 - 12:00am

Bimini's Isle: a sanctuary for birds

June 30, 2017 - 00:00
Bimini's Isle, Margaret Dreier Robins Collection, Special and Area Studies Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida.

Bimini's Isle is an island on the coast of Hernando County and has the perfect name. Named for one of the owners, Margaret Robins' nickname was Bimini and Bimini's Isle was actually made of two islands connected by a causeway. The word Bimini means "two islands" in Lucayan.

Raymond Robins and Margaret Dreier Robins main residence was a mansion on Chinsegut Hill, but when guests wanted to fish, go to the beach, or view the shore birds they headed to Bimini's Isle. Many leaders of business, science, and politics stayed with the Robins including Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, James Cash (J.C.), and the Russian Ambassador Alexander Troyanovsky. Their house was a popular stopping place for influential people on their visits to Florida.

A view of Bimini's Isle

The Evening Independent reported on Mary Dreier (Margaret's sister) and her companion Frances Kellor staying at Bimini while visiting the Robins. It is said that in ten days time Miss Kellor caught 147 fish, mainly redfish.

The fish was not the main attraction of Bimini's Isle. The Robins had dykes built to create a freshwater reservoir on the island to attract shorebirds. The dykes also became a popular nesting spot for birds.

This wide variety of birds at Bimini's Isle led to it being selected for the first meeting of the Hernando Audubon Society, a chapter of the Florida Audubon Society in June 1940. According to the June 28, 1940 edition of the Evening Independent which recorded the first meeting, "The island has been a bird sanctuary for years giving refuge to herons, seagulls, sandpipers and other shore birds, as well as mockingbirds, bluebirds, king fishers, thrashers, flycatchers, and woodpeckers. At feeding time flocks of 50 or more red-winged blackbirds descend onto the tables provided with grain."

Some of the prominent founding members of the Hernando Audubon Society were Chairman Miss Lisa Von Borowsky (personal secretary of the Robins), Secretary-Treasurer John J. Bell, Mrs. Jimmie Jennings, and Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Beville.

The Evening Independent on September 25, 1940 recounts another meeting of the Hernando Audubon Society at Bimini's Isle. The wildlife conservationist reported seeing a bald-eagle, marsh hens, a red winged blackbird, and many other birds.

Bimini's Isle is evidence of Hernando County's long history of conservation. At present around a third of the lands in the county are off the tax rolls with a majority of that being conservation lands.