Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mini vacation - Florida - Day 1+2

Sunday February 5th

Early rise to go to early 8 am service. Hurry home, grab suitcases and on to the airport. And then wait of course, haha. But we arrive in good time in Miami, get the rented car, drive to our hotel and walk to a near-by Argentine restaurant to have a delicious dinner with red wine (Malbec of course) and back to the hotel again.

So close to the ocean I am determent to have seafood every day. Salmon stuffed with spinach, an almond sauce and rice with herbs was a good beginning.

James had a selection of Argentine steak and sausages. Neither one of us finished the potatoes.

Monday February 6th

Wow, we slept til 8:35 and almost missed the (continental) breakfast.

But soon we were on our way to the Everglades National Park, about a one hour drive. We had brought our GPS from home which is a lifesaver on this trip.

First stop the Visitor Center at the entrance. There is a life-size Florida Panther in Bronze.

I did not know that there were panthers in Florida but later in the day we meet a ranger which tells us that there had been only 30 left when he started but that there are about 110 now.
Each station had nice exhibitions. We watch the 18 minute movie which was very interesting and worth-while. We decide though not to spend more time there but go all the way to the end and then work our way back. If we run out today we can come back tomorrow since the entrance is quite close on our way to Key West.
Our first stop is on Eco Pond. We encounter hundreds of butterflies on our first little walk.

We are already impressed because we see lots of different birds. We had remembered to bring our binoculars which makes it more fun.

Everywhere were very nice explanations.

This explains that egrets, herons, and other wading birds population had drastically declined because of the fashion styles of the early 1900s when there was a demand for bird feathers to decorate ladies' hats. An ounce of egret feathers was worth more then an ounce of gold. “Plume hunters” were brutal.

Today's bird population is affected by modern land and water use practices outside the park.

First place where I wished I had borrowed Sarah's camera.

Next stop: we park under the tree with the spanish moss at the Flamingo Visitor Center.
In the bay we watch for a while several manatees playing around. They are very active. It is mating season.

Its not possible to take a decent picture ... just evidence that we saw them.
 It was a lot of fun though.

Again a nice and informative little exhibition ... and of course a gift shop. Got to support the National Park System. We bought something for William.
Pelli, the Pelican. He keeps us company when we are surprised with a downpour. We flee into a bait and tackle shop, buy some sandwiches and eat them under an overhang to save time later.
The rain is over soon and we see two crocodiles (saltwater) swimming in the lagoon. They are more rare then the alligators.
 Pelli is watching the croc too.
On the very right behind the trees is the Visitor Center. An Osprey couple had decided to build a nest on the very top of the antenna. The ranger told us that you can't fight them when they decide where they want to build a nest. You can take the nest down, they will start again, same spot. The rangers had to take their weather station equipment down instead.
 No shortage of seagulls.

We walked all the way around the bay because on the other side was a pelican. On the pier to the right. Pelli has spotted his cousin.

We had to sneak closer and closer to get a better picture for William.
William, this picture is for you. Pelli wants to come to Nashville and tell you all about the Everglades.
First stop on the way back: Mrazek Pond. This is a dream for photographers with the right equipment. We can't believe all the different birds we are seeing. So much fun. But a little too far for my camera. Interesting though with the binoculars.

I just love the Roseate spoonbill.

Next stop: West Lake. Because the Everglades are a wetland with slow moving water, all the hiking trails are boardwalks. Very well done.
 The mangroves are so interesting.

These birds are just too funny. All of a sudden they all came out of the mangroves in one line one after the other like a never-ending stream. We wondered what was going on.
If you want to see them   click here   and   click here.
Next stop: Mahogany Hammock Trail. A hammock is a clump of trees, in this case Mahogany trees which are quite rare these days.

We had learned that just a couple of feet difference in the elevation make a big difference in the plant and wild life.
Next to the board walk on the way to the hammock another interesting sign.  Poison ivy is not the only nasty stuff I didn't know about before I came to the USA. There is also Poisonwood ... with similar effect.
 And here is the sample.

More info.
 A sabal palm.
One of the many nurse logs we could see. Just had to look.

 Oh yes, a mahogany tree. Can't help but be in awe.

The underside of a fallen tree. New Life. Because of the ground the roots are very shallow.
The picture is probably too small for you to see ... but here are the seed pods of the mahogany tree still hanging.
We met a ranger who was happy to talk with us. So interesting. No question was too dumb for him. He answered all so nicely and understandably.
He and another couple told us where we could see an owl just around the bend. Can you see it ... pretty much center of the photo. It was very exciting.

Sarah, where is your camera?
 There she is from the other site.
The next stop had a little viewing tower: Pa-hay-okee Overlook.
We found out that the trees we had seen all along the road were not dead. Just dormant.

Land flat as a pancake. Only a few hammocks or tree clumps here or there.

Signs of life everywhere. The park with the most wild life I have ever seen.

So lucky. Just made it to the car before the next downpour.
 Oh yes. Have seen two of these signs. No kidding.
And then I saw the widest rainbow I have ever seen. It was breathtaking. Pictures can't do it any justice.
The start of the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm. The highlight of the day. We had done the sequence right. The best for last. At every turn something different. So many different species of birds and plants. the beauty was unbelievable.

God's creation. You have to be touched.

 Difficult to recognize. A turtle feeding on grass.

An American Bittern (smack in the middle of the photo). Some bird watchers told us: supposed to be more rare. No wonder. So hard to see.
 Isn't he cute?


 Mrs. is nesting.
At one spot there were masses of these fresh water allligators. They lay there during the day. Around 6 pm they glide into the water one by one to go on their night hunt. Then suddenly the birds arrive and are fun to watch too.

Those half round things on the left are turtles. They were quite happy feeding between the alligators.

We continued our walk and came back to it later.

 Love this photo.

The Slough (pronounced SLEW) explained on the sign and studied by James.
 Orchids and Bromeliads.

Look at this giant bird sitting on top of the bromeliads.
 He was finished resting ... going out for dinner.

Back at the "everglade's creatures social place".   Click here   for a video.

And what is this alligator   doing? Scratching himself?
And this white (male) bird had a "crown" on his head every time he got excited about the other (female) white bird.

This   video   shows it better.
There was so much to see. But it was getting dark so we decided to head back.

Since we had picked up the rented car, the odor of cigarette smoke had bothered us. Now it had come to the point that it seemed to cause headaches. We decided to bring it back to exchange. The airport was not too far from our hotel. So that is what we did.

After that we walked again from the hotel to a restaurant. Japanese this time. James had a huge bowl of soup with pork, veggies and ramen noodles. I had the same huge bowl with seafood in a delicious veggie broth and soba noodles. We remembered the times when we had seen the noodles being made behind a glass window in Singapore. Ah, the memories.

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