Nick and I are knew that we couldn't make the most of our time here in South Florida without taking a good trip to the Everglades. We'd done a day trip to Shark Valley before, but we decided the best way to really experience it would be to camp there so that we could immerse ourselves in the awesomeness that is the Everglades. So we drove on a Friday evening down into Everglades National Park to Long Pine Key campground. When we get there, the first thing we noticed was how secluded this area really is. There are just tons of tall slash pines - their silhouettes lining the dark sky. And we lucked out with perfectly clear skies so you could see all the stars.
|Long Pine Key|
Right away, we realized we were in a new world. As soon as I walk into the ladies restroom, I notice a tiny scorpion on the floor! It was only about an inch and a half long. We had no idea we even had scorpions in South Florida! And we continue to see some awesome stick bugs along the outside bathroom walls. We knew right away how awesome this trip was going to be.
|Baby Hentz's Striped Scorpion|
We quickly set up camp and hit the hay. We were awakened around 6am to unfamiliar but intriguing sounds. I knew that these were not only bird sounds, but NEW bird sounds. Nick had remembered these sounds as Chuck-Will's-Widows from our Bird Songs CD, and sure enough, they were! These were life birds for us! It started with just a few distant calls, and then we seemed to be surrounded by them. We laid there in our tent with only the mesh top between us and the sky, and we felt completely immersed in the forest as the calls got louder and more frequent. It was one of those really incredible bird moments that we'll never forget. But never did we actually see one of these new life birds. And quickly, the other birds of the forest joined in the morning chorus - including Cardinals, Eastern Towhees, and Gray Catbirds.
|Sunrise in the Everglades|
We then hit up the famous Anhinga Trail. As we turn on the road leading to the trail, we see a sign about the possibility of panthers - an incredible yet daunting warning. Unfortunately, we did not get to see these big cats, but I am sure that they were lurking about in the tall straw-colored grasses for which they are perfectly camouflaged. At the entrance to the trail, there are warnings about vultures ruining cars. The black vultures were abundant, and in fact, we did see one in the parking lot trying to tear up a top of a convertible Ford mustang.
|Black Vultures cooling off (This scene really made me laugh|
for some reason...)
And of course we did see plenty of Anhingas, and even a mother feeding its chicks. You can see a video in our previous post. And the alligators were also plentiful, including the one hanging around under the feeding chicks, just waiting for one to fall down and be a quick snack.
|Female Anhinga feeding her chicks|
|Alligator waiting for an Anhinga Snack|
|How many Gators can you count?|
|Anhinga taking a break on the|
|Air Plant Flower|
We saw some usual suspects, including Little Blue Heron, Great Blue Heron, Palm Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Red Shouldered Hawks. And surprisingly, we saw quite a number of Purple Gallinule out and about. They are usually pretty shy, but we saw a few foraging along the waterline.
Heron waiting for a fish
The next day, we decided that we would try to get up especially early to see if we could actually try to get a view one of the numerous Chuck-Will's-Widow that fly about. A man the day before advised that we could find them all along the wires on a side road. So we woke up as soon as we heard the first set of calls while it was still dark out and drove to this secluded road. We drove up and down looking for these birds, but we had no luck. We thought we might have seen some fly by, but no definite ID's. I couldn't hear as many as the day before, but we could definitely hear them closer. We parked and walked out into the road to search on foot for a little bit. But after realizing that we were in panther territory with nobody else awake and nearby to hear our possible screams for help, we went back in the car to search again. But alas, still no sightings.
We headed to Anhinga Trail again the next morning, and we got to see the morning fog hovering over the marsh in a ghostly manner as the sun was rising. And we had a nice little surprise by a pair of Norther Waterthrush calling to each other and foraging for food while bobbing their little tails. We also had some nice views of a pair of Red-Shouldered Hawks, what appeared to be one adult and one juvenile.
|Great Blue Heron|
|Adult and Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks|
|Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk|
|Me with my camera in hand|
|Nick getting a head start on the trail|