Last weekend I loaded up the family and set off for Shark Valley, at the north end of Everglades National Park. It was an overcast day and we drove through a couple of rain showers to get there, but once we had parked and bought our tram tour tickets the sun peeked out and the remainder of the day was beautiful.
Shark Valley is a great place to observe exotic birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat, because it is really nothing more than two paths running out to an observation tower eight miles deep into the swamp. Once you’re out there it is wilderness as far as the eye can see. I’ve been out there several times in the past with my bicycle, but this time we opted for the tram tour, because an eight mile bike trek would probably be too much for my five-year-old to handle. The tour was narrated by Ranger Mel. He did an excellent job pointing out animals and educating us about the Everglades’ history, natural features and the challenges it faces. As a novice birder, I was especially grateful for Mel, because he identified the bird species we saw.
Anhingas perched on the trees hanging over the deep water areas drying their wings in the sun. It is easy to distinguish the females from the males, because they have a sandy-white head and crown. The male Anhingas are almost completely black.
A Red-shouldered Hawk watched us from the high branches of a distant tree, making me wish I had a better camera.
Great Egrets perched atop the little Cypress trees that dot the “River of Grass.”
|Great Blue Heron|
|Great Blue Heron|
A Great Blue Heron stalking new hatched alligators, begrudgingly yielded the road as we approached.
In addition to the birds I was able to photograph we also saw Black Vultures hovering overhead ready to perform Nature’s clean up duties. American Crows as big as ducks observed us closely on our ride in and on our ride out. Northern Mockingbird flew in hopping and skipping patterns from bush to bush and a lonely Western Osprey hovered high above everything.
My wife and daughter, who were initially somewhat skeptical at the idea of spending an afternoon in the wilderness, ended having a wonderful time. My daughter said her favorite bird of the day was “the fat one.” Later, I discovered that she wasn’t referring to me, but the Red-shouldered Hawk, which coincidentally was my favorite bird of the day as well.
Until Next Time,
The Fat One