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Christmas 2006

Part 9:  Everglades National Park

It was a beautiful day in the Glades the next day: got there a little past sunrise and intended to do the drive-a-mile bit all the way to Flamingo, but that got changed to just stopping at the designated pullouts after awhile because I was gonna run out of time if I didn't!  But the initial stops turned out to be very productive: the early morning chorus consisted of Blue Jays, Catbirds, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Carolina Wrens, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Eastern Meadowlarks in the sawgrass.  What I thought were Red-tailed Hawks perched in the distance turned out to be Black-crowned Night Herons once I got the scope on 'em, and on the way to Anhinga Trail what I thought was another raptor perched in a distant tree turned out to be a White-crowned Pigeon!

   

Royal Palm entrance road and sawgrass habitat

There were several folks at the trail already, but it thankfully wasn't packed; most of them were heavy-duty photographers taking advantage of the early morning sun and the tameness of the birds before the crowds showed up!  Getting out of the car I was surprised to hear yet another Great Crested Flycatcher, and this time he actually showed himself!  The trail's mascot sat unafraid on the stone wall next to the restrooms, and cormorants literally hogged the path to the boardwalk!  Great Blues, Great Egrets, and Green Herons dotted the vegetation along the path while once again the Least Bitterns were content to call from the cover of the reeds.  Yet another Purple Gallinule delighted several folks, although he was rather shy compared to yesterday's bird!  The boardwalk was great fun with herons and more Anhingas lining the railing, and Alligators swimming slowly in the water.  A group of Black Vultures landed on the railing right in front of some Japanese tourists, no doubt making them a little nervous! 

 

Anhinga Trail

     

Double-crested Cormorants hog the trail

           

Scenes along the boardwalk...

                            

L-R:  Trail mascot, Great Blue Heron, and Green Heron

      

Can you find this Great Blue Heron on the boardwalk?

                                         

Yet another Purple Gallinule delights the tourists!  With Great Egret at right...

               

Anhinga portraits

            

Black Vultures entertain some tourists

  

"Whaddaya think, Joe; can we taken ‘em on?"

      

This is probably the easiest place in the park to see Alligators!  Visitor’s Center from the boardwalk

Headed south and stopped periodically, and interestingly the butterflies were out already: several Cloudless and Large Orange Sulphurs bounced around along with a single little Barred Yellow.  I was just getting ready to take off when a raptor sailed overhead: a Short-tailed Hawk!  Great look!  Further down another car had stopped for a small buteo by the side of the road that had me totally stumped: it almost reminded me of a young Gray Hawk, it had such a strong facial pattern!  But a quick check with Sibley showed that the Florida Red-shouldered Hawk is quite patterned in the face as a youngster. Another stop along the sawgrass yielded a large flock of both White and Glossy Ibis, and what may have been a Snail Kite, but it disappeared before I could get the scope on it. A jaunt into Long Pine Key was evidently so fruitless that I forgot to mention it in the original writeup!

                  

Heading south along the main drag yields a Large Orange Sulphur and a backlit Short-tailed Hawk

       

Pineywoods habitat at Long Pine Key with Tropical Checkered Skipper

                                           

Gulf Fritillary and immature Red-shouldered Hawk

Did all the little loop trails (Pine Land, Pa-hay-okee, and Mahogany Hammock), but didn't see much of anything; the wind was whipping up as well, so that didn't bode well for birds or butterflies.  Some park personnel were eradicating some Brazilian Pepper from Mahogany Hammock; at first I thought it was some hiker carrying a big container of red fruit juice on his back...

      

Pine Land Trail

                

Dwarf Bald Cypress along the Pa-hay-okee Trail (although an evergreen, they do lose their leaves in winter)

          

Mahogany Hammock Trail (a hammock is an island of hardwood forest in the middle of the sawgrass)

Past that point were all the little ponds you stop at; with the wind whipping up, they were pretty choppy!  West Lake had a flock of Forster's Terns, and Coot Bay Pond had several new things, including Little Blue and Tricolored Herons, several Roseate Spoonbills, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebes, and of course a flock of coots.  A Belted Kingfisher went smashing into the pond as well!  Paurotis Pond was pretty quiet but had an interesting dragonfly with brown bands on its wings; the closest match I could find was Painted Skimmer, but there's also something called a Halloween Pennant that's very similar, so hopefully the dragonfly experts will be able to help me out!

     

Nine Mile Pond and boardwalk at West Lake (below also)

                   

Possible Painted Skimmer at right

I did take one of the "real" trails: Snake Bight was packed with cars, so I went on to Rowdy Bend, which turned out to be very productive!  At the resting spot several Wood Storks were catching thermals, and they were joined by a spoonbill of all things!  Aside from several Mangrove Buckeyes and a single Cassius Blue, a small flock of American Goldfinches went bouncing through, and in one rather "jungley" looking spot had a warbler party with Palm, Prairie, Common Yellowthroat, and Northern Waterthrush all showing up!

Butterflies along Rowdy Bend Trail...

                   

Mangrove Buckeyes and Long-tailed Skipper

The road to Bear Lake was actually open this time (it had always been closed every other time I had come to the park), so I headed on down the slightly overgrown one-lane road, only to find a car jam at the end!!  A couple of people were pulling out as I pulled in, so I grabbed a spot and took a 15-minute hike down the trail.  I didn't have a map so I didn't know how long the trail was or where it ended, so I just sat for five and headed back, only picking up a Zebra Heliconian and a skipper that I'm pretty sure was a Three-spotted.  Although it was a great jungle-like trail through the mangroves, I don't think I'll take it again, especially since both you and your car have to "suck in" whenever another car comes down the road so you can both get by!

           

Bear Lake Trail with Gumbo Limbo Tree (characterized by its peeling bark), possible Three-spotted Skipper, and Zebra Heliconian

Finally made it to Flamingo and hiked the Eco Pond Trail, which was pretty productive: a gorgeous Roseate Spoonbill fed close along with a Wood Stork, and a Greater Yellowlegs was the sole representative of the shorebird department.  A nice Cattle Egret posed on the fence, and a female Red-breasted Merganser sat in the middle of the pond.  Upon closer scrutiny, a whole mob of female Shovelers was packed against the bank of the island!  Picked up another skipper; the closest match seemed to be Twin-spot, but the book implies it's on the large side, and this guy didn't seem any bigger than your average "jet-plane" skipper. [Ed. note:  now that I'm a little more experienced, it looks like an Obscure Skipper...]

   

Coastal prairie near Flamingo and Eco Pond

                            

Cattle Egret, Wood Stork (above) and Roseate Spoonbill

     

Spoonbills sway their beaks, then snap them shut when they encounter something!

       

Obscure Skippers

Took a quick look at the beach after that, and figured that it must have been high tide because there was no beach habitat whatsoever!  While scanning the distant "island of birds" I happened across an Osprey perched fairly close who had caught this huge tiger-striped fish!  (Someone at Bird Club told me what it was, but I forgot already…) Headed over to the marina after that and was surprised (pleasantly) that there weren't more people there; I had expected the place to be packed by now!  The pelicans and Laughing Gulls were begging for food by the boats, and over at the visitor's center a scan of the bay added White Pelican, Royal Tern, and Black Skimmer to the list.  The rookery looked to be mostly Snowy Egrets and a few Greats, but one Great White Heron was hiding amongst them!

     

Osprey with banded fish

     

Brown Pelican waiting for scraps at the marina at Flamingo, at the very tip of the mainland!

Called it quits after that, picking up the required Common Myna back at the hotel in Florida City!  Had a great Cajun meal at the seafood restaurant next door to the rather expensive Best Western…

Click here to continue to Loxahatchee NWR, here to return to Tamiami Trail

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