Sunday, April 17, 2011

Excursion to the Everglades

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

Palmetto Walkingstick

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

Eastern Towhee

Gray Catbird

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 Vulture

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.

Smiley Alligator

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.

Little Blue
Heron waiting for a fish

Palm Warbler

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

Purple Gallinule

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.

Morning fog over the swamp

One Eyed Gator

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

Northern Waterthrush

Adult and Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawks

Juvenile Red-Shouldered Hawk

Me with my camera in hand

Nick getting a head start on the trail


  1. This was a wonderful post, Maureen! Great pictures, and great description and imagery. Sounds like a lot fun!

  2. Some scary creatures over there! When we were in panther-territory a while back I kept thinking; you don't see them. But they do see you!
    I don't think I'd dare to camp between the gators!

    Lovely photos as always. That Purple Gallinule is nice!!

  3. Sounds like a great trip — I enjoyed reading about it.

    I'm wondering if that pretty Waterthrush isn't a Louisiana. The main thing that caught my eye was that giant pot-belly. Then, it might have an unstreaked throat, buffy supraloral, buffy flanks, whitish chest, and gaps between the breast streaks. In this pose, the rear supercilium doesn't seem to me definitive either way. Other opinions?

  4. @Chris - Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the waterthrush! You're definitely right about the potbelly, and the distribution of the streaks is a tough call. However, the bird had a yellowish wash, overall, including the supercillium, and, while it's not shown in the picture, the throat was streaked. My impression was of a Northern, but I'm open to other arguments - Louisiana would be a lifer, after all :)

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