Thursday, February 17, 2011

Everglades Eye Candy, Anhinga Trail Flavor

A place called Anhinga Trail sounds like somewhere you’d go to see some birds.  At the very least, you’d expect to be rewarded with lots of Anhingas, right?  Well, I’m happy to report the Anhinga Trail does not disappoint.   Everglades National Park has been on our radar for a while and there was a star over this trail.  Sure, it’s known as the most heavily used trail in the park, but it sounded like it was worth dodging a little human traffic for the opportunity to see some cool birds.
Black Vultures awaiting our buddy Dave's death.  Dave waiting for vultures to move so he can photograph something else.

The diversity is stunning.  If you were building a zoo, you wouldn’t think of stuffing this many birds (not to mention a few dozen alligators) together in one place.  The floaters and the waders highlight the gentle half-mile walk.  All of the expected Florida herons make an appearance, as do the coots, grebes, ducks,  and moorhens.  Anhingas, cormorants, and vultures provide a constant backdrop.  Throw in a wood stork or two and you’re starting to get the idea of how crazy this place is. 
A wood stork lounging in a way that we humans might find painful.

Speaking of crazy, the black vultures here have been known to eat parts off of cars.  A few of them eyed up our rental Prius when we drove into the parking lot, so we wrapped the windshield wipers in scary crinkly plastic bags to protect the rubber.
Black Vulture

Most of the birds visible are black vultures.  A few turkey vultures as well.

As you walk the trail, you are literally arm’s length away from strolling vultures and sunning cormorants.  It’s a paved trail and boardwalk.  Not exactly a wilderness trail, but a blessing for those who can’t handle rough terrain for whatever reason.  The first couple hundred yards are atop a dike with a water-filled “ditch” (for lack of a better word) to one side.  Eventually, you turn out into the main waterway and traverse it on a boardwalk.
Green heron.  Always been one of my favorites.

Snack time for a pied-billed grebe.
The highlight of the trip was this American bittern emerging from the vegetation to look around.

Yes, there are plenty of Anhingas here as well.  Several tree-islands in the main marsh were filled with Anhinga nests.
Anhinga.  Our buddy Dave commented on how, in flame, these birds would be a perfect representation of the Phoenix.  Regardless, we didn't set any on fire.
This tree had three active Anhinga nests in it.
And it wouldn't be the everglades without alligators...
As we wrapped up our two-hour, three-quarter-mile walk the trail was starting to get crowded.  I was happy to be on my way out as so many people were starting to clog up the works.  One thing caught my eye, though.  There was a young girl, maybe 9 or 10 years old, looking through a giant pair of binoculars that she seemed barely able to hold up to her eyes.  “Daddy, is that a little blue heron?” she asked.  Her father scanned the area where she was looking and told her it was a tricolored heron and explained the subtle differences – subtle, at least, to a young kid.  The girl gobbled up the information with a big smile.  I remembered nature walks with my dad 30 years ago.  Love of nature may be innate, but it sure doesn’t hurt to nurture it in our young.  The world might just end up OK after all.
Tricolored heron says, "Thanks for caring."

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