people might say that birdwatching (or trainspotting) is a vice, but blow me it’s pretty
In and around the Everglades are numerous, national, state and local nature parks and reserves, or preserves and refuges as they like to call them, in addition to all the recreational
parks which attract animals and birds as well as butterflies and insects.
A week’s holiday at the beginning of May meant that we could explore some of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines as well as the interior of southern
. Our landing Florida
Approach was over some of the vast low-lying expanse of the
Evergladesjust ahead of a thunderstorm, but it all looked rather dry. Aithough we drove to our resort hotel through
was suffering from a drought because of climate change and the water table was below normal. Wildlife was suffering because there had not been the regular Florida
afternoon thunderstorms for many months and everyone was hoping for the rainy season to start at the beginning of June.
A trip to one of the many shopping malls resulted in finding a wetland area full of birds. Wood storks were a good find alongside White ibis. Unfortunately I had to move on when
One of the local residents took exception to my long lens! The next stop was a recreational park for airboats and fishermens' speedboats where rather tame Black vultures and
an osprey hung about looking for titbits. More surprising was a Great egret wandering around the visitors' center fearless of all the tourists.
An early morning start took us down to the
Florida Keyswith the chance of a variety of seabirds. However traffic congestion restricted our movements and we had to settle for the
usual culprits - Magnificent frigatebirds and Brown pelicans - Swallow-tailed kites were to come later. On the way back we found a Double-crested cormorant, but I have still to
see the double crest shown in the guide books.
The next sortie was an overnight stay on
Sanibel Islandon the Gulf coast where our previous neighbours had had their honeymoon. It was so beautiful that we stayed an extra
night. As can be seen on my Gallery pictures there was an Osprey on the beach resting with its heavy load of fish as well as a Snowy egret, Pacific plovers and Willets along
with other common waders, some of which may have been migrating north.
The local nature reserve had Roseate spoonbills, Great blue and other common herons as well as a Red-breasted merganser. An after-dark walk hoping for Leather-backed
turtles to come ashore to lay their eggs revealed small waders feeding along the shoreline and a section of the beach cordonned off for one very special Snowy plover on its
Another nest we saw was that of an Osprey in someone's front garden with a squawking chick in it . How is that for a garden bird ! On the journey back to
we stopped off Miami
at another state park where a very proud warden was surveying a success story - hundreds of Least terns were making a comeback after years of disturbance by holidaymakers.
In addition there were Skimmers, Red knot and
's plovers taking advantage of the protected area. On the tram ride back to the carpark, and since I was the only Wilson
passenger, the driver obligingly stopped when I shouted " STOP woodpecker ! " and there going up a bare tree was a beautiful Gold-fronted woodpecker. However the highlight
of the trip was a beautiful Swallow-tailed kite hunting over yet another huge shopping mall. I guess the shops were built on what used to be the bird's ancestors' natural hunting
there were more surprises on the beach. A Yellow-crowned night heron was watching early morning bathers, a loggerhead shrike was patrolling the seafront Miami
boardwalk, and a small flock of Caspian terns was watching a local beachcomber feeding Laughing gulls and pigeons from leftovers out of the litter bins
More trips to shopping malls by Annemaria meant more visits by me to reserves, sometimes two a day. I do not know who has the worst vice, A M or me. One National Park
ran a guided tour bus. The driver gave out lots of information but there was not a lot to see because of lack of water.
The odd culvert had alligators, some with young. The main pool was full of them seeking water and shade under the trees. A rat was a good find - food for raptors such as
the southern Bald eagle but there was none of them around. Better still was a Smooth-backed turtle coming out of the water to lay its eggs.
On our last day we had time to kill before we caught our flight home. I had missed a canoeing trip on Sanibel due to windy weather. So whilst A M went to the biggest Mall
yet I went of in search of dolphins and maybe manatees by canoe. Although I saw neither I did take A M's camera and surprised her with the front end of my canoe when
we looked at her camera pictures on the way home !