One of the first places we decided to visit was the Everglades National Park. Of course, probably the most well known animal and/or symbol of the park is the Alligator. There are 4 of them, all fairly large, in the middle of the photo. I think I see another straight back in the brush behind the pond.
The American Alligator is found throughout the southeastern USA, usually in swamps, sloughs, lakes, ponds, canals and rivers. It can tolerate brackish water for short periods of time but they can’t process or remove the salt from their systems like crocodiles can. Male alligators can grow up to 15’ long but females rarely exceed 10’ in length.
Finally, the camera is turned on Laurie, my blog photographer! Dawn Marie and Laurie are standing next to one of the several accessible wildlife viewing areas along the main road in Everglades National Park.
There are some very interesting facts to consider about the park. Everglades National Park was established in 1947. Covering 1,508,538 acres or 2,358 square miles, it is the 3rd largest National Park in the lower 48 states. (Yellowstone is the 2nd largest and Death Valley is the largest) Consider this…the park is twice the size of the state of Rhode Island!
As we walked along the boardwalk at the Mahogany Hammock, another of the viewing areas along the main road, a photographer pointed out this Barred Owl in a tree above the trail. She had a nest with young nearby and she brought a vole to her babies while Laurie and Dawn Marie were watching.
The Everglades is a terrific place for birdwatchers to visit. To see the unbelievably long list of birds that can be seen in the park, just go to http://www.nps.gov/ever/naturescience/birdspecieslist.htm.
Although quite common across the eastern part of the USA, the Blue Heron is one of our favorite birds. Back home in East Tennessee, we frequently see them out hunting for frogs and small fish. In the Everglades, they are so used to people that Laurie could get very close to this specimen to take his photo.
Everglades National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve and it’s been designated as a Wetland of International Importance. As large as it is, before man started draining the swampland for our use and misuse, the Everglades covered roughly 11,000 square miles. That would have equaled an area larger than Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, and Washington DC.
Laurie also took this close-up photo of a Wood Stork. They are truly a primitive looking bird! This is the only stork that presently breeds in North America. They build stick nests and form colonies of nests…with as many as 25 nests in a single large tree. These birds can be up to 45” tall…almost 4’…and they can have a wingspan of up to 71”…or about 6’!
Here’s another good sized Alligator. It was dusk when the photo was taken. In addition to American Alligators, coastal areas of the Everglades also shelter roughly 2,000 American Crocodiles. They are more tolerant of salt water but they are also less able to adapt to colder temperatures. Typically, a male American Crocodile will be 13’ long and weigh around 840 lbs. However, 17 – 19’ Crocodiles can occur and one in that range was allegedly spotted in the Everglades in the past couple of years.
Invasive species are a major problem in South Florida and in the Everglades in particular. In addition to Lionfish and Melaleuca Trees, there is a huge problem with Burmese Pythons. These former pets have been turned loose by their former owners and they are upsetting the natural order of the ecological community in the park and elsewhere. They can grow up to 20’ long and weigh 200 lbs. They will eat small mammals, birds, deer, other snakes and even small Alligators. Solutions for this problem have been hard to find. Over 2,000 Burmese Pythons have been removed in recent years but they are definitely breeding in the park so a successful outcome as regards eradication is doubtful.
One of the most interesting birds in the park is the Anhinga or ‘Snakebird’. It’s a Cormorant-type bird although we think that it’s even more primitive looking. It is a protected species.
The viewing area at Royal Palm on the main road into the park is probably the best area to see a wide variety of birds as well as a lot of Alligators. The roosting colony of Anhinga shown above was photographed at dusk. These birds sometimes also hunt together. One challenge is that they can’t waterproof their feathers. While this helps them dive for food, they are forced to spend a lot of time sitting in trees or whatever is handy, wings outspread, drying their wings.
Dawn Marie took this photo of Laurie and I at dusk while visiting the Royal Palm wildlife viewing area in Everglades National Park. We had a great time exploring and taking photos…
For more information on Everglades National Park, just go to the National Park website at http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm. Another site of interest can be found at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/76.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing our visit to the Everglades!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave