Life is for the Birds (and gators) in the Everglades!

Ochopee, FL

Since we had a few days to kill before moving to our site in Ft. Myers, we decided to spend some time visiting the Everglades.  So we moved from near Miami (Goulds) to Midway Campground, located along Rte. 41 near Ochopee.  This small campground in the Big Cypress Preserve is operated by the National Park Service.  The sites are paved with a concrete patio.  All sites have electricity and there is a dump station and fresh water available.

Midway Campground

We know that the area is full of many types of birds, but one particular Cardinal decided to get up close and personal with us.  Stanley (after Stan “the man” Musial, Hall of Fame great from the St. Louis Cardinals) found his twin brother staring back at him in one of our windows.  Apparently Stanley doesn’t like his twin, as he constantly pecked at him.  To try and prevent this, John trimmed some of the tree limbs back away from the window in hopes Stanley would get the message.

But this little guy is nothing if not persistent!  We will not even show you the presents he left on one of the mirrors on the Jeep!

One of the best things to do while in the Everglades is to visi the Shark Valley Visitor’s Center.  There is a fifteen mile paved loop through the Everglades that you can walk, ride your bike, or pay to ride a tram while listening to a guide describe the “flora and fauna” around you.  We opted for two out of the three: tram ride followed by a bicycle ride.

Shark Valley Tram

The tram experience was well worth the cost, especially when you get to listen to an expert describe what you are seeing.  One side of the loop takes you through the vast area of sawgrass and hammocks (stands of trees, usually hardwood, that grow on elevated areas, often just a few inches high, surrounded by wetlands that are too wet to support them).  The other side of the loop parallels an old canal dug by an oil company during the 1930s.  If you want to see alligators, this is the place.  These guys love to lay along the grassy bank of the canal and just enjoy the tourists (visually, not gastronomically).

The tram guide said that they have never (yet) had an alligator attack anyone.  But as we rode our bikes, we didn’t do anything to attract their attention, just in case!

See the five gators in this picture?

This guy smiled at us as we passed by

Do gators yawn when bored?

As we passed along the canal we spotted this little guy sunning himself near the water.

Florida Red-bellied Turtle

When we spotted an alligator near the turtle we watched them for a few minutes to see if it was lunch time for the gator.

Can’t we all just get along?

But apparently the gator wasn’t hungry, as he made no move toward the turtle (at least not while we were there).

A bit further down the road Pam spotted the snake below sleeping in the grass.

Brown Water Snake

Nobody seemed to bother the water snake, but the little guy below wasn’t so lucky.

We spotted a Great Egret having him (or one of his relatives) for lunch a few yard from the road.

Lunch time!

One of the most numerous of birds we spotted in Shark Valley and along Rte. 41 is the Anhinga.

The Anhinga is sometimes called Snakebird, as it often swims with only its neck above water.  When swimming in this style, since only the colored neck appears above water, the bird looks like a snake ready to strike.

Unlike ducks, the Anhinga is not able to waterproof its feathers. Consequently, feathers can become waterlogged, making the bird barely buoyant. However, this allows it to dive easily and search for underwater prey, such as fish and amphibians. It can stay down for significant periods.

When necessary, the Anhinga will dry out its wings and feathers.  It will perch for long periods with its wings spread to allow the drying process, as do cormorants. If it attempts to fly while its wings are wet, it has great difficulty getting off the water and takes off by flapping vigorously while “running” on the water.

Bird lovers have a great time spotting all the different types of birds in this park.  We don’t know much about birds, but are including pictures of a few of the ones we spotted (and could identify).

Red Shouldered Halk

Blue Heron

Half way around the loop road is an observation tower that stands out against the flat skyline.

The view from the tower gives you a feel for the vastness of the Everglades, as you can’t see anything but grassland for miles and miles.

We’ve enjoyed our visit to the Everglades but have found that, unless you are a birder or biologist,  a day or two is all you need to see the sites.  So we’re anxious to move back to civilization on Friday.

Next up, Ft. Myers for the holidays (and beyond).

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27 Responses to Life is for the Birds (and gators) in the Everglades!

  1. Looks like an excellent way to visit the Everglades. I cannot believe how close you were to all those gators! You wouldn’t want to take a spill on your bike!

  2. cathy says:

    We love the Everglades! Enjoy!

  3. John looks way too close to that gator!

  4. Ingrid says:

    I’m not sure I’d want to get that close to a gator. Thanks for the enlightening tour. My real questions is “would you go on another cruise”?

  5. colibabas says:

    Wow…great pics! Thought I was looking at National Geographic there for a minute. 🙂
    Safe travels!

  6. Sue says:

    I never knew you two were thrill seekers……waaaay to close to the gator and the snake guys.

    We had a frisky male Cardinal tapping on Beluga’s window and mirrors at our lake spot. Dave finally had to cover both with green garbage bags to dissuade him!

    Sue

  7. Erin says:

    Great visit to the Everglades; thanks for taking us along.

    We had a cardinal like yours who took umbrage at his reflection. He would peck the heck out of the side of the coach … well, really his reflection. We tried tying pieces of cloth to ward him off … it was all to no avail.

  8. Gay Taylor says:

    Awesome pictures. Love the Anhinga…especially drying off!
    I agree…that was way too close to the gators.

  9. Yep! That looks like Florida. Great pictures!

    Looks like we’ll be staying in Florida a few extra days. Steve’s going to play in a softball tournament in Kissimmee. Maybe we can meet for lunch in the middle somewhere. I think you should check out Winter Garden. There is a great trail for bike riding that runs right through the downtown. It’s part of the Rails-to-Trails.

    Have a Merry Christmas!

  10. john says:

    we just visited the everglades yesterday and are now in Bonita Springs just south of your next stay… enjoy!

  11. Great wildlife photos! Have you still got all your fingers and toes?

  12. Paul got here yesterday….I have Internet…yea!

    Paul has never been to the Everglades. I was there about 40 years ago. I remember every detail. I love that area. I want to get Paul there…hopefully, next winter.

    Very nice site! Is that guy in that photo trying to read? He isn’t very convincing.

    I love Stanley. What a hoot. You captured the greatest photos. Good job!

    I love, love, love that tram tour. Absolutely must do that. What an awesome experience. You two really out did yourself with the photos. They are super. Thanks for a wonderful tour.

    Safe travels.

  13. Janna says:

    Love the alligator photos, really I loved all the photos–green grass, sunshine, shorts and t-shirts–what’s not to love!!

  14. Allison says:

    Stanley was nothing if not persistent. We did a plantation tour in Savannah, and they told us an alligator could sprint briefly at 30 mph. I have a lot of respect for that many teeth with that much speed. I enjoyed your cruise pictures. We a cruise in the Mediterranean years ago, too early in the season. It was cold and windy, doubt if we’d ever do it again.

  15. Pam Leonard says:

    Great post…this place is on my list, but my husband hates snakes so I doubt we’ll be there long! Good to know a few days is plenty to get a feel for it without getting eaten.

  16. Yeah, this is my area, birds and alligators. We will be there in February, thanks for the sneak peek.

  17. Tom says:

    We enjoyed that tram ride also, did not dare to walk or bike through that area. Keep enjoying Florida and stay safe. Great pictures, thanks.

  18. Rommel says:

    It is in Florida that I saw the most memorable alligator I’ve seen. Love the second picture.
    Merry Christmas!!!

  19. RJRVtravels says:

    Great pictures…Gators and all. Safe Travels and Happy New Year to you both!

    Rick

  20. Laurel says:

    We were at Midway just a few days before you — biked Shark Valley and enjoyed the wildness. Planned to go on the canoe trip but got rained out. Glad to have found your blog; love the photos and commentary!

    • placestheygo says:

      I removed your previous comment. Will that do what you wanted?

      The canoe probably would have been great. Too bad we didn’t know about it sooner so we could have booked a spot.

  21. Laurel says:

    Yes. Just wanted my first name on the post. 😉 Check out our website if you’d like to see some of the wildlife photos we took at Cypress Strand. We’re planning to return sometime for the FIVE hour canoe trip, and the swamp walk.

  22. Joe Homich says:

    The gator with his mouth open was warming him/herself. Glad you enjoyed the area.

  23. Enjoyed this post! It takes me back 2 years ago when we stayed at Midway Camoground and went on the Shark Valley tour. Loved the campground and the tour.

    • placestheygo says:

      Midway was a great place especially the time we were there. One night there was only one other couple and the camp hosts. Everyone needs to take the tram tour at Shark Valley.

      • We stayed at Midway in January 2012 during the busy snowbird season. Back then it was first come, first served only and I kept calling ahead to be sure we could get a spot. We arrived early in the day for a better chance of getting a site and we were able to get site 13 at the end of the row so our door faced the woods. We loved it. I agree about the tram tour at Shark Valley – everyone traveling across the Tamiami trail should stop and take the tour.

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