Today, we embarked on a return visit to Everglades National Park, which occupies the southern tip of the Florida mainland. We were here once before, in 1999, on our Southeastern USA trip (see archives), but summer is the worst time to visit the Everglades. The mosquitoes are ubiquitous, huge, and hungry. We actually ran from our car into the Visitor Center and still had numerous bites. Bug spray helped but not completely, so we did not spend much time here. Besides the insects, wildlife was also hiding because of the oppressive heat and humidity. Obviously, our visit was not entirely positive. Since that time, I decided that, if I had the opportunity to visit in the winter, I would try to do that.
Well, the time has come and we took advantage of the opportunity and are better off for it. We now have a much kinder appreciation of this unique and interesting environment. Even though we spent only three or four hours in the park, we saw abundant wildlife and never even had to use the bug spray we brought with us.
We started at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center, at the eastern entrance to the park. We spoke with a Park Ranger to get some advice about the best places to stop during our visit. Our first stop turned out to be the absolute best one. We walked the Anhinga Trail, from the Royal Palm Visitor Center. We saw many, many alligators. Most of them were sunning themselves, but others were actively swimming. We also saw turtles and the extremely interesting anhingas, diving birds with long, spear-shaped beaks. Florida Gars, long pike-like fish, could be seen swimming in the remarkably clear water. We also saw some other birds and many kinds of plants, indigenous to the area.
From Royal Palm, we drove to the Pa-hay-okee Overlook, a spot that gives the visitor a panoramic view of this special ecosystem. We could for a long distance, noticing the "river of grass," as this place has been described, and the frequent hammocks of land, island-mounds which support trees and shrubs.
Paurotis Pond gave us the opportunity to see a large group of nesting Roseate Spoonbills, beautiful birds with pinkish feathers and long bills with flattened tips, hence the name, spoonbill.
Next, we reached the Flamingo Visitor Center and checked out the vicinity of the marina, where the ranger said we should see crocodiles and ospreys. She was right-on! The crocs, like the alligators, were sunning themselves, while the mother osprey was preening in her nest.
Our last stop was Eco Pond, near Flamingo. We walked around the entire pond and saw many different types of wading birds, such as, herons, egrets, spoonbills, and ibises. We had a wonderful day here and highly recommend the Everglades in the winter! Se our wildlife photo album!