Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Our Trip to the Everglades

On Sunday, Skip and I attended a Spring Training baseball game with the Rays at the new Red Sox' JetBlue Stadium in Fort Myers that is a replica of Fenway Park in Boston.

After the game, we continued on down I-75 to Naples where we spent the night before heading into the Everglades National Park. On Monday morning we drove to Shark Valley Loop Road to take the 2 hour guided tram tour of the 15 mile loop through that part of the Everglades.

This red-shouldered hawk was atop a pole beyond the parking lot. It was an overcast day so the light was really crappy for long-distance photos.
We saw lots of alligators, herons and egrets, roseate spoonbills, etc, etc., many from a very close vantage point. These green heron babies were noisily awaiting their mother and food source.
They were very fluffy so must have been born not too long ago.
Here was a trifecta: a glossy ibis, two mature white ibis and an immature white ibis.
 The American Bittern is very hard to see amidst its grassy habitat. This is only the second bittern I've ever seen. The first one was at South Padre Island last year.
At many times on the tram tour, the wildlife were right on the road. At one point, the tram stopped beside a 12 foot gator that was right on the road, directly beside me. Mmm, let's say about 5 feet away. Then the guide started telling us how fast the gators can move on land and rear up on their hind legs - with this large gator only a few feet away from me. I looked over to my companions and their eyes were like saucers and very glad I was the one on the outside seat. I was very relieved when we moved on.

Yesterday, we decided to do some further exploration and headed to the Ernest Coe Visitors Centre and the Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitors Centre.

When we pulled into the parking lot, we saw cars parked with blue tarps on top. This was to protect them from the black vultures that were climbing all over the cars in search of bugs. They are known to scratch the paint with their sharp beaks and talons and damage windshield wipers and the rubber strips around windows and windshields.
Unprotected vehicle
Black Vulture

Black Vultures drying their wings in the sun
 There was a self-serve bin at the visitor's centre with the tarps and bungee cords so we covered up the car before heading off to see the fauna and flora.

The Anhinga Trail is a 0.8 mile loop along and through waterways. There are either paved paths or boardwalks. We spent 2.5 hours on this and the adjacent trail alone.

My 'bird of the day' is the green heron.

I had never had a good look at a green heron until the day before and I sure made up for it yesterday.

I even saw a fledgling green heron but didn't get a photo.

There were lots of wood storks
 and their pink feet.
There were lots of double-crested cormorants.

This anhinga had just shaken a lot of water out of his feathers. They're also called 'snake birds' because of the way they go through the water to catch fish.
And 'turkey birds' because of the formation of its tail feathers when it is under water.
We saw a few nests with noisy, fuzzy anhinga babies.
We got a close-up view of this anhinga spearing a fish then flipping it in the air, catching it in its beak and gulping it down in one piece.
We got some good close-up views of a purple gallinule.

It's related to the common moorhen but has bright feathers, a white forehead patch above the yellow and red beak and bright, lemon yellow legs. This was a life bird for David - very exciting!

This fairly non-descript bird was determined to be a female common yellowthroat.
This was a life bird for me - the palm warbler.

Some of the epiphytes (air plants) were starting to bloom. These plants use other plants and trees for support but unlike parasitic plants, they do not take anything from the host plant.

I only got one good shot of a turtle.

Grey catbird.

There is only one place in the world like this - what Marjory Stoneman Douglas deemed a 'River of Grass' in 1947. When the Tamiami Trail was carved horizontally through the centre, it cut off the water flow from the northern section to the south, resulting in a lot of the southern area becoming desert-like particularly in the dry season. Also, to provide fresh water to the Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas, canals were created to divert the water in a southeasterly direction from Lake Okeechobee which normally had flown in a southwesterly direction. A 40 year restoration project is underway with the hope that the Everglades will be restored to its original state. Hopefully not too many animal species will be lost in the meantime. Endangered species in the state are the Florida panther, wood stork, snail kite, American alligator and crocodile, loggerhead sea turtle, piping plover, manatee, scrub jay, Cape Sable seaside sparrow, roseate tern, bald eagle, red-cockaded woodpecker.


  1. Your photos reminded me of this BBC video. If you haven't seen it before, it is laugh out loud funny.

  2. Amazing pictures, what an absolutely beautiful place.