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Christmas Trip 2003

Part 8: Tamiami Trail

All photographs © 2003 Mary Beth Stowe

Next morning I had one last breakfast at Jerry’s, then headed towards Naples and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (that’s a mouthful), but since the center didn’t open till nine, we did the drive-a-mile bit to the end of the road. The open areas were just jumping with White-eyed Vireos, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers (I understand the latter is quite unusual), Yellow-rumped and Prairie Warblers, towhees, Catbirds, and Cardinals! The mangroves were quiet, however, and the nature trail at the end of the road was a short hike to an overlook of the mangroves, where I enjoyed ibis, a Little Blue Heron, an Osprey coming in with a huge fish, a pelican who missed his meal and still tried to maintain a dignified look, and a distant adult Bald Eagle! By the time I got through with that the Briggs Nature Center was open, so I paid my four bucks and hiked the boardwalk through the pines and marsh; unfortunately they had quit maintaining the feeders, so there were no Scrubbies about, but the overlook halfway through the loop had tons of Tree Swallows and a flock of Blue-winged Teal, plus some diving ducks I couldn’t make out.

              

A Red-shouldered Hawk and Prairie Warbler along the nature trail to the mangroves at Rookery Bay.

      

Said mangroves

           

Osprey with breakfast at the Briggs Nature Center where boardwalks take you through the pines and the marsh

           

Red-bellied Woodpeckers like the pines 

Headed over to the next boardwalk at (or near) Big Cypress Preserve (the boardwalk is actually part of Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve) and walked the entire thing this time. Again, it was fairly quiet, but did have noisy Red-shouldered Hawks and a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers excavating a few nest holes. A young White Ibis fed back in the darkness, and at the end had a baby gator and a young Anhinga who had lost all his flight feathers! On the way out I was happy to hear a distant Barred Owl hooting, and a tame White-eyed Vireo checked me out near the trailhead (and that was one of those frustrating times where the camera was just too slow to focus!).

       

Along the Big Cypress Boardwalk a Pileated Woodpecker works on its nest hole and an Anhinga has mysteriously lost all his flight feathers!  

Went straight on to Shark Valley, where the lot was full and they were turning people away! The Lord must have felt sorry for me, though, cuz as the nice ranger was telling me of alternate places to find Snail Kites, the parking lot patrol called him and said a couple of spots had opened up! So in I went, and it was indeed a zoo, with people all over and alligators basking every five feet! Most of the people were hanging out at the Visitor Center waiting for the tram, but a few families joined me on the trails (the bikes were tempting, but after the excruciating pain in my legs the night before from that romp around Sanibel, that was not an option), where a Green Heron raised his crest and clucked, and one guy stood taking shot after shot of a Common Gallinule! I took one and let it go at that... I also happened upon a funny little "water tornado", like what you get when you drain a bathtub, only this had a really good funnel! Wish I had a ranger to tell me what was causing it!

      

Gators don’t seem to mind the tourists at Shark Valley, part of Everglades NP   

        

L-R:  Excited Green Heron, Anhinga, and Common Gallinule

     

Here, there’s a gator every five feet for the tourists to gawk at!

I have no clue what was causing this little “water tornado”, but you could actually see a little funnel!  

It sure wasn’t as birdy as November of 1992 (maybe Andrew blew all the birds from down south up here), but managed to scare up what I’m assuming is a King Rail in this stuff, and a Limpkin came through, wailing in the distance! One family found a snake that the ranger said was a Black Racer and not a Water Moccasin (which was good as I got right in its face for a photo), and a couple of Great Blues posed on the way out. I scanned and scanned for a Snail Kite, but nada; the nice lady ranger told me about another alternate place, and as I approached the car I thought I’d check that "raptor funnel" one last time, and sure enough, there was a female kite!! Talk about the 11th hour!

      

Black Racer

                   

Left:  White Peacock; center and right:  Great Blue Herons

            

Gutsy photo op and Everglades habitat

After I pulled out I wanted to finish off a leftover steak, anyway, so I drove down to the defunct airboat place where you can park and have a great overview of the Glades. Sure enough, after awhile a beautiful male kite came sailing in, showing off his nappy slaty plumage and red face! What a show!

Headed in to the Holiday Inn after that in anticipation of a wonderful adventure in Panama!

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