Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Everglades

This national park is the 3rd largest in the lower 48 states, covering 2500 square miles. Since we're staying in Homestead the closest entry point is the Ernest Coe Visitor Center.

It was rather overcast and chilly this morning but we bundled up and headed over to the visitor center in the Everglades just outside of Homestead.  We saw an excellent film about the history and ecology of the Everglades.  The ranger recommended two wildlife walks, the Anhinga Trail and the Mahogany Hammock.  They were very different.  The Anhinga trail is a half mile boardwalk through a very wet area.  It was teeming with water birds.  We don't have a long lens for the camera so we had to settle for photos of birds that would let us creep up close to them. The anhinga above was very tame.  Obviously he's very aware that he lives in a wildlife refuge. Unfortunately we were not able to get a photo of an anhinga drying its wings.  Anhingas and Cormorants are unable to waterproof their wings by producing oil the way ducks do.  They sit for long periods of time with their wings spread.

Here are two cormorants that were sitting at the side of the trail.  They allowed Dick to get very close with the camera.

There were at least 50 Black Vultures in the parking lot and the wetlands area.  They soared overhead and settled on the roofs of cars and RV's.  There was a sign in the parking area stating the birds do damage to cars.  We weren't sure if they peck at the paint or just scratch it with their claws.  Our minivan is so beat up at this point I don't think we would notice any Vulture damage.

We got back in the car and headed to the Mahogany Hammock trail which is about 15 miles further into the park.  Small changes in elevation determine what kind of vegetation grows in a particular area.  Because this trail is higher, it's much dryer allowing hardwoods such as mahogany to grow there.  The trail was a half mile boardwalk through a forest with large trees and ferns.

Tomorrow we are registered for a two and a half hour mountain bike ride through the Everglades.  I'll report back and let you know how it went.  If the weather warms up the way it is promised to do, we'll book a nature cruise for Tuesday.

On the knitting front, I've finished the oatmeal gansey and am about half way through the oatmeal striped cardi.  I have to put them in the mail tomorrow so I have my work cut out for me tonight.

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