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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Everglade Gator Gazing Road Trip

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My, what big teeth this Big Cypress, Florida Everglades ‘gator has!
Florida Everglades essentially experience just two seasons.  The wet season is summer – when 50+ inches of rain is the norm. The dry season is winter – though it sprinked on our drive.

Cruising across the Big Cypress section of state’s Everglades, we discovered the “dry season” is an ideal time for easy wildlife viewing.  Then, wildlife concentrates in smaller, fewer watering holes.

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Downy brown head and neck feathers identify this Big Cypress,
Florida Everglades Ahinga bird as a female; male Ahinga
heads and necks are black.
We stopped at the Big Cypress park visitor center, rife with gators galore!  Swimming, sunning, socializing, we viewed them from the comfort of a raised observation boardwalk, along with a rich variety of fish (leopard-spotted gars and walking catfish were my favorites) and waterfowl (ahingas, white cattle egret, inky-black cormorants, and a yellow-bellied warbler).  Elsewhere on our drive, we passed herons, curve-billed ibis, ospreys, and lots of red-headed vultures.

We were relieved we did not get surprised by any gator “speed bumps,” which apparently can be equally deadly to gators and drivers.  Car accidents are the primary killer of both alligators and the rare Florida Panther. While gators are prolific enough they’re legal to hunt (click here for post about ‘gator hunting), sadly, only a little over 100 of Florida’s beautiful tawny panthers still remain.
gator sunning in big cypress swamp
One of many alligators we saw swimming
at this Big Cypress Florida Everglades
watering hole
.


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Happily, while driving, we saw no dangerous
live speed bumps of the scaly variety,
crocs or gators.

crocodile sign in key largo
Florida is one of the few places in the world where there are
both fresh water alligators and salt water crocodiles.
Someday we’d like to meander through Florida’s Everglades again, much more slowly, hiking and kayaking.  For now, we were grateful for this road trip, giving us a brief yet incredibly rewarding glimpse of Florida swamp life.  Best of all, it was the perfect opportunity to reconnect after a week and half of challenging family issues, while Wayne waited, boat-bound, in Marathon.
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Rumor has it, these fellows can move quite quickly!  Fortunately,
the Park Service viewing deck offered a safe photo-taking spot.