Florida Keys and Everglade Photos - 1998
SAT 1.24.98

We woke up at 10am and after breakfast headed out to the Bird Rescue area, only 1/2 mile from our motel. It was amazing! It was started by a single woman, rescuing hurt birds. Now it's tiny parking lot barely holds 10 cars, but there are oodles of birds. First there were big, wooden outside cages with injured owls, hawks, egrets, woodpeckers, etc. A ranger came by with a Cooper's Hawk. We looked up on top of the cage, and an ibis was wandering around, looking down at us! A bit further down, tons of ibis, herons and pelicans just sat around keeping their injured, caged companions company!

Two pelicans on the roof

It was huge. There were huge visitors-can-walk-in general bird cages, with gulls, pelicans, cormorants, roseate spoonbills, even slick-headed terns by the water. Giant spiders wove webs along the boardwalk. The Pelicans waddled around, following us down the paths. Waddle waddle waddle. They were awfully cute. And it was all free! We of course gave a good donation.

Injured Roseate Spoonbill

On to the Pennekamp National Park, an underwater coral reef off shore of Key Largo. It started thundering (it was supposed to rain all weekend, but we were lucky), and it turns out the coral reef boat trips were 2 1/2 hrs, not the 1 hr I thought. That with only 1/2 hr over the reef. We declined and wandered through their aquarium instead.

Up to the Everglades! Up by Florida City the agriculture started - rows and rows of tomatoes (there's that whole tomato picker strike going on right now), squash, beans, etc. Each at a different stage of growth, so there's always crops ripe. Past those, which were built by draining the Everglades (that and water management is a huge issue down there right now). The visitor center had alligator/crocodile explanations and lots of material on the problems with the canals and water management and such.

An anhinga drying its wings

The first trail was off to the south, and was really neat. A boardwalk went past a lake with Anhingas, fighting for a fish. These birds swim! They dive down into the water, swim around, and eventually poke their snake-like heads up for a breath. Then down and around again. They sit on trees drying out their feathers afterwards. A gator lurked in the grasses. A purple gallinule, very pretty with bright colors, sat nibbling on a plant. Many other birds - ibis, heron - hung out on trees.

purple gallinule

The trail wandered in and out and around various tree groups. There was another gator under a pile of bushes, and one watching a drying anhinga. Another swam over near it, then retreated. There were huge gar (long fish) in the water too.

The next trail was to the north. What a difference! This one was touted as being bird-full, but we only saw three turkey vultures, and miles of the low swamp-grass. Every once in a while was a "hammock" - an island that clumps of trees grew on.

On we went, The land changed from flat, grassy swampland to more hammock-filled land; the colors changed from green to reddish. Always around us were wandering ibis and swoop-necked birds, looking for fish. We passed a canoeing pond on the left, and stopped at the next pond. There was a lurking alligator, a heron, a few ducks. Finally we hit the end - Eco Pond - around 4pm where all the ibis were gathering in a huge tree on an island. Roseate Spoonbills flew to a smaller pond in back, and alligators lurked near coots with white bills, and moor hens with orange bills. It was neat seeing 17 or so ibis come in in a flock, settle into the tree.

little green heron

It was sad that many people didn't have binoculars to see the birds, or know which bird was which, so we helped out quite a few of them. We should be rangers!

Back up to the "canoe pond". The 8 canoes were racked for the night, so we wandered down to the pond's edge. There were two crocodiles and an alligator! Lurking right there, looking log-like, waiting for their canoey breakfast!! Yum yum, unaware tourists for a snack. We were curious and hoped nobody came out for a midnight swim.

Great white heron

Back to the Mahogany Hammock, a huge hammock of hardwoods that was quite dark inside. There was the "biggest mahogany tree in the US" in there. We went through and then headed out.

Bob didn't want to eat just yet - he was feeling exploratory. So we drove back up Route 1 in search of a Sports Authority, but never did find it. We did go through all sorts of "native Miami suburb" homes - read run down, dirty projects and single-family houses with huge gates and fences and padlocks. It was sort of sad. I've read that most of these people have never been in the everglades or anywhere natural. This even though they're so close! It must be sad to live your life surrounded by concrete and chains and "danger". Funny, some of these parents don't want to take their kids to the park because they could be eaten by alligators. Yet they probably live somewhere far more dangerous. I suppose it's the evil they know.

Anyway, we didn't find the Sports Authority, so we headed back to the Fish House, a well-recommended restaurant near us in Key Largo. I was amazed at how it looked - it was quite a dive on the outside! But the inside was clean and fun, and the food was incredible. I had dolphin Jerk fish, Bob had blackened tuna, and then we went to Dairy Queen for dessert. Back home to sleep.

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