Tag Archives: Everglades

Everglades National Park

The dry season is the best time to visit

The Everglades has two very distinct seasons – the dry season which runs from November to April and the wet season which lasts from May to November. It was the last weekend in February and a cold front was predicted to push through the peninsula bringing cooler drier air. I wanted to take advantage of the improved hiking conditions so I decided to explore the Everglades National Park. The dry season down here attracts many birds. The wet season brings out the insects. Believe me when I say it is not a lot of fun to go out fishing or hiking with bugs all around you. Insects can be present all the time. Even during the dry season visitors to the park should be prepared for mosquitoes and a variety of biting flies.

The 3rd largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park

The Everglades spans across 1.5 million acres that stretch over the southern part of Florida. The park has three main areas. We entered through the Homestead visitor center to get maps and trail information. The park ranger informed us that high water levels had scattered the birds and wildlife throughout the park. Visiting the Everglades lets you explore a vast diversity of eco-systems. There is a lot of area to explore and I can see myself spending a week here but I only had 2 days. Some of the trails that we explored were the Eco Pond trail, the Anhinga trail, the Gumbo Limbo trail, the Pahayokee overlook, and the Mahogany Hammock trail. Looks like another visit will happen soon. Here are some images from my visit.

anhinga everglades

The anhinga is a large bird that likes to dry out its feathers in the sun

mockingbird everglades

The northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) is renowned for its mimicking ability

butterfly

The Ecopond trail was full of butterflies. Here is a Junonia evarete

cardinal everglades

A female northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). The male was not far behind.

hermit thrush everglades

Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) forage on the forest floor for insects

Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

A very windy afternoon on the Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge

The wind gusts reached 30 miles per hour on a recent visit to the the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is located in western Palm Beach county in Florida – about 7 miles west of Boynton Beach. Winter is the best time to get out and explore the marshes and swamps that many migratory birds call home for the season. In the southern region of the state it has been a very rainy winter with cold fronts bringing heavy rain every week. Dry cold air and clear sunny skies take hold a day or two after the rain clears. The high water levels in the swamps and sloughs attract a lot of birds that feed in these waters. This region is part of the Everglades and the water moves slowly towards the Gulf Of Mexico in the south and west. More information on the refuge here on their website – Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge

Bird and wildlife photography without a long lens

I have to confess that I am mostly a landscape photographer and that I lack the necessary equipment to photograph birds. Birds are small subjects and move very fast. They require fast long lenses in order to capture good images. In many cases a focal length of 400 mm lens is the minimum lens size necessary for this type of photography. The images that you see here were captured with a 105 mm lens and they are heavily cropped. In addition to hikes in natural areas I also run into many birds when I am out fishing in the kayak. I think that I will be acquiring a long lens very soon.

American coots (Fulica americana) are omnivorous birds

While walking around one of the canals in the refuge I ran into many pairs of coots. They are omnivorous birds that eat primarily algae and other aquatic plants, insects, small fish, and crustaceans. While observing their behavior I noticed that they were diving looking for food. You can see one of the birds is eating a small weed. These birds resemble some kind of duck but tend to have short, rounded wings and are weak fliers. When they take off to fly they look like they are walking in water.

The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is a large wading bird

Blue herons are large grey blue birds with a wingspan of 167–201 cm (66–79 in).
They are common near the shores of open water and in wetlands over most of North America and Central America, as well as the Caribbean and the Galápagos Islands. Although rare, Ardeas herodias has been observed in Europe, with records from Spain, the Azores, England, and the Netherlands. Other species of herons inhabit Europe and Asia. These wading birds can be seen around lakes, rivers, ponds, marshes and on the sea coast. It feeds mostly on aquatic creatures which it catches after standing stationary beside or in the water or stalking its prey through the shallows. They have a harsh, deep, hoarse and aggressive call that when disturbed or taking flight will scare you. I have also run into them while kayaking around the mangroves. If you have not spotted them first, their loud noise will definitively scare you.

canal-slough-loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida

Wind gusts of 30 miles/hour make difficult any landscape photography. Here is a view of one of the canals in the refuge.

Loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida-blue-heron-wingspan

The wingspan of a Great Blue Heron is impressive

Loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida-duck-blind

A covered observation deck or duck blind offers a good view out into a pond

Loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida-coot

We encountered numerous pairs of Coots

Loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida-coot-feeding

A Coot diving in search of food came up eating some weed

Loxahatchee-wildlife-refuge-florida-coot-flying

Coots are not great fliers so when taking off they look like they are walking on top of the water