Saturday, March 6, 2010

Everglades National Park

I am very blessed to live in a state where we have so much wildlife to live with and observe. I live in Sarasota, Florida. I photograph birds all over Sarasota and south central Florida. Early in February, I decided that I would take a couple days and drive down to Homestead, get a hotel room and go to the Everglades the next day. On Saturday the 20th of February, I got off work,got my oil changed and then drove over to Economy Tackle, which is the largest bait and tackle store in town. I wanted to take my kayak along with me, and take it fishing down in Flamingo, Florida on Monday morning. I then bought a new fishing license and some flurocarbon leader material and some new fishing tackle to take along with me in the hopes of catching some big redfish on Monday morning. The rest of Saturday evening I spent preparing my fishing gear, charging up my camera battery, and packing my clothes because I was scheduled to work the lunch shift on Sunday the 21st.
Sunday arrived without much fanfare and I went to work. I got finished with my shift at about 4pm and drove home. I found an unpaid internet bill that was past due so I had to drive over to the Verizon office and pay my bill. I got home and immediately loaded up the kayak and secured it to my truck with the tie-down straps. I packed the rest of my gear and washed some clothes that I would need when I returned to Sarasota. I jumped in the truck at about 7:15pm Sunday evening. I needed gas and ice and some other supplies. I stopped at Arby's for a quick bite to eat and then hit the road. I left Sarasota at almost 8pm Sunday night.
I drove down interstate 75 all the way across Alligator Alley and listened to The Everglades Radio Network while traveling across Alligator Alley. Check it out at . I arrived in Homestead, Florida at about midnight Sunday night. I paid $56.47 for my little hotel room and noticed that it was lightly raining. I unloaded all of my stuff and put the kayak in the hotel room because I was afraid that it would have been stolen if I had left it on the truck bed. I played around online on facebook and flickr until about 1am before retiring to bed. I set my clock for 6am.
I awoke to my cell phone alarm buzzing away at 6 and opened the hotel room door. It was coming down in sheets. I was upset and disappointed that I drove all that way to look at the rain falling down. I decided to go back to bed for a while. I got back up at 7:30 or 8am and just decided to load up the truck and continue with my trip. I was hungry so before heading to the park, I stopped in for breakfast at the ihop for some sausage and eggs. It was really raining and I drove to the park and stopped in at the visitors center to learn a little more about Everglades National Park. It was still raining so I had given up on my plans to fish. The first turn off inside the park was to a road leading to the Anhinga Trail. I had seen photographs of birds at Anhinga Trail, so I was eager to et some photographs. The rain had almost stopped and I parked the truck and found some other photographers who had the same idea.
Anhinga Trail is a long boardwalk built over a wetland marsh. The first birds I saw were the black vultures that were all over the cars in the parking lot. I went behind the buildings and there was a little pond back there with an anhinga in the tree and an alligator in the water.

I was really busy photographing this anhinga that I failed to notice that little limb right beside the bird. It is so close to the bird in this image that it doesn't distract from the bird too much, at least I hope not. I looked down and saw an alligator sitting in the water. It wasn't moving, just sitting there.

I took several photographs of the alligator and anhinga and I was hoping the alligator would move a little closer so I could get a tighter shot, it didn't so I just photographed it where it was before I moved on to find another bird, of which there were plenty.

There is a reason that they call this place "Anhinga Trail" They were everywhere!

I moved on away from the anhinga and the alligator and saw a great blue heron across the water and as I approached, it flew up and landed on the wood railing right next to me. I couldn't beleive how close and how tame this bird was, it was like it knew I wasn't going there to cause any harm. Look at how beautiful this bird is!

I moved on around the boardwalk and noticed how many Purple Gallinules there were running around in the bushes. A purple gallinule is a type of rail. The bird has these giant feet that enable it to walk around on the leaves and lilly pads which cover the surface of the water. Notice how beautifully this bird is colored. It is just brilliant!

I spent a couple hours here, walking around the boardwalk, photographing all the birds I could. I was looking at another gator swimming around this little pond and there was an anhinga on the tree just watching the gator, the bird seemed completely unalarmed by te alligator and just watched it swim by. I felt something brush my head and looked up just in time to notice a black vulture land on the boardwalk railing right beside me. It sat there and posed for me so of course, I snapped off a couple shots!

I then left Anhinga Trail and went back to my car just as the rain started falling again. It rained so hard that I was afraid that I wasn't going to make it back to the truck before my camera got soaked. I did make it in time and got back to the truck just as the sky unloaded. I left and then decided to drive the 35 plus miles south to Flamingo, Florida. Flamingo is a little fishing village at the southern most part of the penninsula of Florida. It rained the whole way down and only stopped long enough for me to get out and look around a bit! There wasn't much there, just a boat ramp, a visitors center and a little store by the marina. I saw an osprey nest, a couple seagulls and an American Crocodile. Flamingo is the only place in the world where you can see Alligators and Crocodiles together.
I got tired of the rain so I decided to drive back to the hotel, pay for another night and hope for the best. I paid for another night, rested a little bit and then drove to the Florida Keys in a driving rain storm. My luck fort the day just sucked. I couldn't win for losing. It rained the whole way down there and the whole way back. I couldn't even stop to eat without getting soaked. When I got back to Homestead, I stopped at Mickey D's and had some food.

I awoke the next morning to a few clouds, but no rain. The sun did come out as I approached the park so I went back to Anhinga Trail. I stopped and photographed the rising sun as I entered the park.

When I got to Anhinga trail I saw this little green heron.

I then left the southern end of the park and headed north to go to Shark Valley. Shark Valley is another entrance to the park at the northern end along the Tamiami Trail, (Highway 41). When I got there the parking lot was full so I had to park along side highway 41. The birds were all over the place, as were the gators. I saw green herons, anhingas, and great and snowy egrets.

There were so many gators there that you would almost step on one if you didn't watch your step. Here is a closeup of one. I was about seven feet away from this gator.

I kept moving on and saw some thistle growing beside the trail so I thought that it was a great opportunity to use my macro lens for a closeup shot of this lavender colored bloom.

I kept moving as I found one subject after another to photograph. I saw several Florida cooters, which is a turtle and a beautiful woodstork sitting on the ground beside the paved trail.

I finally was happy with the photographic opportunities that I had been presented with and I had about a three hour drive left in front of me. I knew the going would be slow and that I would make a couple more stops along the way. I drove back on Tamiami Trail and I stopped at the Clive Butcher gallery and museum in The Big Cypress preserve. I kept driving and also stopped in Everglades City. I don't see how anyone actually lives there. There was not much to see. I left Everglades City and then drove on back to Sarasota to complete a trip of sight seeing, photography and alot of driving. I arrived home tired and sleepy at a little after 6pm. I had a great time got some good photos, in spite of the rain and educated myself about the Florida Everglades. I am now ready to go back, stay tuned.


  1. Mike,
    Excellent photography! Enjoyed the story.


  2. Mike excellent photos. I found you originally on Flickr. I live in Sarasota also. All the best.

  3. Fascinating story and some great pictures. I'm from the UK and I visit Florida to take photos but I'm always a bit nervous about gators in the wild. So I think I might have freaked out! How dangerous is it?