Birds of the Everglades

My wife and I live in the city because of its diversity and living close to everything saves a lot of money on driving expenses. Of course, the only thing we don’t live close to is the wilderness. This past winter we decided to do something different on our vacation. We would spend six days in the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress Preserve.  After attending a conference in Tampa, my wife joined me and we drove to Florida City, located on the east side of the Everglades. There we stayed at a hostel and spent three days going in and out of the park taking photographs.  The main road in is shown in the accompanying photograph.

Surrounding the Everglades on the east side are thousands of acres of giant agribusiness farms, complete with elaborate irrigation and migrant farm workers. We’re all dependent on these farms, along with those in California, perhaps we have too many of our “eggs in too few baskets.”

We went on two ranger-led walks, one was to spot birds, the other a night-walk with flashlights to watch the alligators feeding. This adventure can be best described by the sounds of splashing water, followed by the crunching of bone. Eeeh! Water birds, though many had already migrated north, were plentiful and posed for photographs.

On day 4 we drove across highway 41 through the Big Cypress Preserve and stayed at a motel on the Gulf side of the Everglades. There we took a boat ride through the estuaries that were mostly covered by heavy vegetation canopies.  We were the only two on a ranger-led swamp walk in the Big Cypress Preserve. Actually, it was more like a somewhat muddy walk, as we were at the tail-end of the dry season and there has been a drought in Florida over the past several years. The Preserve was created by Congress as a result of the politics between local business interests and the environmentalists. Human development was rapidly encroaching on Florida’s wilderness, and its loss was seen as bad for hunting & fishing, tourism, and the environment itself, depending on your perspective.  The compromise between the environmentalists and the business interests was that the land would be protected from development, but you could hunt, fish, camp, and drive your vehicle throughout the preserve. In contrast, activity in the National Parks is far more regulated.

Being in the wilderness enabled us to truly focus on the our surroundings, and not worry so much about maintaining the decorum of daily life (like clean clothes, shaving, all that stuff). You start thinking that so much of that decorum just doesn’t seem to be a good use of time and resources, things that could be directed more towards quality of life.

Future trips into the wilderness are in the offing.

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