More from the Everglades & beyond!

Dec. 11:  Forecast is for possible thundershowers, but that was in Miami.  In Florida City (right next to the park) it was for sunny – so we set off.  Drove a different route today – much better traffic.

imageIt was a bit foggy w/ temps at 22C this morning.  This group of Black Vultures were silhouetted against the fog.

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The sun came out very soon & a Glossy Ibis strutted his stuff.

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Still some fog in the sky, highlighting this flock of White Ibis.  We stopped at a field near a research station to listen to a bird song we didn’t know.  Hard to find in the dense grass, then 2 mowers started up about 100 yards away – absolutely roaring – there went that possibility.

This is where the Nike missile was placed during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.  Now the buildings serve as a study area for the national park.  Of course, Cuba is right offshore the Keys (where we go next Wed.).

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All we found were Eastern Meadowlarks – lots of them – & some were singing.  (This is especially for Tarie, though it’s not quite “our” song.)

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There are Amer. Kestrels most every place we go.  Quite plentiful – unlike some hawk species.  Sometimes we see them every mile, perched on telephone lines.  (Are they really telephone lines?  I think not!  Just electric wires I think – oh, I’m old!)

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The skies were clearing in our area, but potential thunderclouds were building on the eastern horizon.  That stand of trees are short-leafed pines standing tall.  Habitat for Brown-headed Nuthatches, which we searched for diligently, but came up with nothing (so far).

This Amer. Crow had to go in for mug shots.  He’s not very tall, so none of the height marking appear.  I’d say he’s about 6″ tall.

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As we travelled along the tall pines, looking for the nuthatch, all we found to photograph was this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

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We took a walk at one of the trails (still after the nuthatch but found this tiny white-topped sedge or star rush.

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And this lovely pink false foxglove which has tiny purple dots in the middle.

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This privet cassia was glowing in the sun – with long stamen shadowed on a petal.

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As we exited the trail beside the information kiosk, this large spider (about 5″ long) glowed in the sun on its web – golden silk (banana) spider.  It is a welcome addition in the crop-growing area due to the number of pests it devours.

The temp by this point was 29C – waaayyy too hot for us, so we decided to head slowly back.  No more walking today – we’re at our limit!

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At one stop, Bill could photograph a Green Heron & a Little Blue Heron from the windows in the truck – 1 on the left, 1 on the right, from his dirver’s seat.

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As we headed back home Bill spied this Amer. Bittern by the road.  We had to turn around & go back to get him & he left almost right away.  Luckily Bill is quick on the draw!

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Thunder clouds continued to build & we had a smattering (spattering?) of rain as we headed back.  Some of the drops were huge, but it didn’t last long.  We’ve gotten lots of mosquito bites, although they’re not quite as itchy as the no-see-ums.  I have over 15 bites – right through my clothes, even then I’ve used a Deep Woods Off wet-wipe to rub over all my bare skin, then sprayed with #30 DEET spray over top of my clothes.  These mosquitoes have no shame!

In the afternoon at our RV site, a Santa Clause parade made its way through the park (which is very large, with about 10 pods, 12 sites to a pod.  It consisted of horses & ponies decked out in colored sashes, etc. & of course, a Santa on a decorated trailer pulled by a golf cart.  Imagine wearing a Santa suit in blazing sun with 28C temps – YIKES!  I felt sorry for the horses!

Dec. 12:  A day of chores, including finding a Benjamin Moore paint store so we can pick out the color for our kitchen cabinets, walls & trim.  Also both got a haircut from a lovely hairdresser names Isabelle at Oasis Salon.  All good there (but Jackie & Gina – don’t worry, you haven’t lost our patronage!).

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Dec. 13:  Up early to hike before it gets hot.  Took in the sunrise over the Everglades.

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As we travelled to our destination, we spied a huge group of herons/egrets at a pond, so stopped to take a photo.  You should hear the noise!  They make the most raucous croaking sounds & there were fights going on everywyere – over a hundred birds.

We thought we’d try Rowdy Bend trail, since it looks a little better than Snake Bight.  However, we soon realized that it was a bust.  The trail started off as a 2-track road, but that ended soon.  We realized that the trail goes off into dense bush & we had no desire to go there (for over 2 miles).

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We did however, see several Gray Catbirds at the end of the road & a Pine Warbler.  Bill caught this catbird flipping around!

(Aside:  When we got back to a place that had cellular coverage, we checked our email.  Our birding bud Don (in SK) sent photos of a Pine Warbler seen in Saskatoon the other day at a feeder.  This means we didn’t have to come here to these terrible conditions to see one – ACK!)

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At least the insects were cooperating (ha ha) – but we found this lovely Buckeye butterfly amongst the mosquitoes.

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Here is a peach colored version that looks very similar to the white sedge from yesterday.  I could not identify it.

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I’ve seen this flower before, but no photos until now.  I think it may be related to tropical heliconias?

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Raindrops on a purple morning glory.

So we went over to the Snake Bight trail & walked for over an hour.  Said it was 1.6 miles to the ocean, but we gave up.  The path isn’t maintained so we had to pull back branches, trees, etc. to get through.  Clouds of mosquitoes accompanied us all the way.  At one point I had to pee & as I squatted, as I looked at the ground, all I could see were clouds of the things.  (& the answer is ‘yes’ – I got bitten on my most private parts – yikes!)  I should have just held it!  (Is this TMI?  [Too Much Information]?)

Not only the bites, but rarely a bird was heard.  Near the end of our walk we scared up a large group of herons/egrets again, who moved forward every time we did.  We finally got tired of beating through the bushes & turned back.

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Bill snapped this Red-shouldered Hawk hunched in a tree top on our way out.

What a terrible experience.  We are both COVERED in bites, stinkin’ hot & sweaty – plus covered in a thick layer of insect repellant.  And NO FLAMINGOES to show for our trouble.  Both of us showered when we got home.  Yikes!  (& Damn it – if Don writes that they’ve seen flamingoes in Saskatchewan – I’ll throw up!)

Dec. 14:  A day at “home”.  Groceries, cleaning, etc.  So we stopped at Walmart to find #40 DEET insect repellant (not that it’ll make any difference, but here’s hoping), both wipes & spray!

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As well as the bites between my legs, I got bitten on the eyelid (they get right under ones glasses, you know) which has almost given me a black eye.  Here’s what it looks like.

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Bill has nearly 20 on his tummy, right above his holster & belt.  The thing is, we don’t react to mosquitoes at home in the same way.  These raise welts, we scratch them until they open up & then they ooze.  It’s disgusting!! The itch lasts for 3-4 days at least & we’ve found nothing to relieve it!

Preparing (as in girding our loins with DEET) for one more day out tomorrow, then off to the Keys!

Dec. 15:  Last trip to the Everglades this stay.  We will return here at the end of our 2 weeks in the Keys to stay another week.

Quite a clear day with just a few clouds around.  A stand of trees with small dead trees scattered amongst the grasses (close up you can see the water standing on the ground).  The little tree trunks widen near the bottom – I assume to store water?

The temp was 20C when we left in the morning, however, by 9:20 it was 27.  Got up to 31 – ACK!

We walked the short boardwalk at Mahogany Hammock which is all under the shade of large trees.  Boy was it worth it!

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This is a White-crowned Pigeon – a Lifer!  We’d certainly been hoping to see one.  It is not quite an adult, since its crown was still a light gray, not quite white.  But it had the characteristic neck streaks.  We ran into a couple of other birders, so went back to tell them about it.

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They, in turn, showed us a Worm-eating Warbler – #2 Lifer for the day!  It has a striped head, with white down the middle, black on each side of that, then yellow & another black!  Very active eating worms, so tough to get a good photo.  At least it is a record.

We also saw a Northern Parula (which can be easily seen in SK, by the way).  I saw one last year in TX, but Bill didn’t get to see it.  This time he saw it, but couldn’t get a photo.

So, 3 Lifers on one short walk – Wow!

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One last stop at the tower (covered, thank goodness).  In the water below this Florida cooter turtle dove into the shade.

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This Zebra longwing butterfly didn’t stop flitting, but Bill was able to capture it w/ his machine-gun camera!

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This is a huge agriculture area with nurseries & crops everywhere outside the towns.  This is a grove of gigantic (40′) Royal Palms for sale.

We drove around the farm areas awhile, looking for Shiny Cowbird, etc. but no luck this time.  We’ll try when we return.

Off to the Keys!

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