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