Tag Archives: Snowy Egret

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

From My Diary. Fall 2017.

Hi there. This is Dylan. Long time no see. And a lot has happened since then. Not all good.

In July dad went to heaven. One day he was here, the next day he was gone. All his things and clothes remained just where he’d left them. His smell was still here. He left without taking anything with him. And he didn’t tell me he was going. Like mom, I’ve been very sad about that. I remember the love he gave me. The back and tummy rubs. And the silly routines we had perfected together. I’m trying to teach mom, but she’s a slow learner. It will take time for her to grasp everything. Dad was a natural. I miss him.

Dylan sadI have a bout of separation anxiety every time mom leaves home without me. I know exactly when she’s planning to leave. And even the thought makes me fearful. Already before she grabs her purse I’m busy hoping she’ll come back. And not go to heaven like dad. To help my anxiety, mom bought me a Thunderskirt. I have to admit that while I don’t like clothes in general, that one makes me feel a bit safer. And it’s warm too. Just right for days like today when it’s windy and almost freezing. Only 55F/13C.

Dylan in Thunderskirt_edited-1And then a hurricane hit our area in early September, the first in almost 100 years. I was not born at the time of the last hurricane, but mom might remember it. Anyway, we took an impromptu trip to Philly. Just hopped on an airplane and left. That was quite an adventure.

philly studio ud137_edited-2It was my first time to fly. The security check was easy, I had a tick mark on my ticket so I just ran through the metal detector before mom. Then I checked out the Admirals Club, but there were no dog treats. Mom gave me a small piece of cheese. Then I flew like a pro. To tell you the truth you don’t actually need to fly. The big metal crate has large wings and it does all the work. You just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Dylan flying_edited-3The hardest thing on this trip was to go to the restaurants with our friends. I had to lie low and be quiet in the booth next to mom. I smelled chicken, bacon, cheese, you name it, but had to keep my head down. No sniffing. It was hard. But somehow I rose to the occasion. Nobody even knew I was there. Right, Gladys?

I have to tell you that I’ve never seen so many geese in my life. They patrolled the vicinity of our hotel every day. Again, I had to practice self-discipline.

Canada geese in Philly_edited-1All in all, it was a great trip. I realized I like to travel. And I hope mom gets me a frequent flyer card. Oh wait, that might not be such a great idea when I think about it. Smells like a double-edged sword. With more miles mom might travel even more. And there’s no guarantee she’d take me everywhere. Like earlier in the fall and again recently. You know, she’s been away twice in the last three weeks. First time she told me she’s going to look for a new home for us. New home? What does that mean? I love my home, my sitter and all my friends, like Bentley and others, at the dog park. I’m not moving. Full stop.

Bentley_edited-1I have to come up with an emergency plan to get that out of her head. All tips are welcome. I just hope it’s not too late.

After coming back, mom took me for a nice outing. We went to see some birds at Fort de Soto Park. We walked the trails near the beaches and found many different birds, big and small.

two willets FDS_edited-1

snowy egret FDS

GBH at FDS

ruddy turnstone FDSBut the most interesting part of the trip was sniffing around at the old fort. By far. The smells were fascinating. Markings of dogs long gone mixed with faint traces of gun powder around the old canons. I like that stuff.

canon and osprey FDS

canon at FDSThen we found another fort. And the soldiers were still there. Mostly pelicans and cormorants. They were guarding the island. Who knows what might come from the sea.

pelicans FDS

skyway bridge FDSOne pelican even gave me the look. Like questioning my right to be there.

pelican at FDSAt the end of the day I was happy, but exhausted and hungry. My dinner time was dangerously close. But mom said she didn’t want to leave before she found at least one osprey. Right away I pointed out several of them for her. They were pretty far away, but she should have spotted them. Then we finally drove back home. And I got my dinner 30 minutes late.

osprey FDS This past week mom left again. For work, she said. That word always sounds iffy to me. I don’t like anything that smells work. Bad smell right off the bat. I suspect she was doing sightseeing. Who can work four days in a row anyway? Impossible. And my hunch proved right. I caught her looking at pictures that didn’t look like work. Even I recognize the building. I watch the news. MSM. And mom’s not working at the White House, is she? I hope not. But here’s the evidence that she was there. Both day and night. Sometimes she’s so difficult to read.

white house DC

white house at night DC_edited-2

national xmas tree day time DC

national xmas tree at night DCWhatever the whole truth, the main thing is she came back. That she’s here now. Giving me tummy rubs. I just hope this lasts for a while.

Take care now. With love, Dylan

Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.

Before Hurricane Irma visited the salt marsh in early September, all the resident birds evacuated prompted by their natural instincts. The marsh was already deserted when I was still trying to get tickets out of here for Dylan and myself…and the sun was still shining. It was eerily quiet. The mandatory evacuation orders for human residents on this barrier island did not have the same effect. Many stayed to ride out the storm.

Salt marsh before Irma UD141I have to say the salt marsh fared quite well. Most of the old, tall trees are still standing. But the debris took weeks to clear out.

salt marsh debris after Irma ud141

Irma debris at the salt marsh ud141

salt marsh after Irma ud141When I visited the park on my day at home between the storm and my trip to Europe, there were no birds. They had all stayed at their evacuation resorts. Apart from one.

papa osprey right after the storm ud141.jpgPapa Stanley was perching at the sailing center. He had returned to check out his forest and his home. Or maybe he was looking for Mama Sandy. I’m pretty sure he saw the nest had not been damaged…before he took off again.

Irma 2017 ud141When I came back from my trip in October most of the debris had been hauled away and I found this ‘monument’ at a small clearing where several trees had fallen. But only a couple of birds had returned. Among those Mama Sandy. She was perching at the nest looking a bit tousled, very serious and definitely wet. It was good to see that she, too, had made it through the storm. But now Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey after Irma ud141A lonely Tri-colored Heron was trying to figure out how to find something to eat despite the still very high water levels at the marsh. And that was it. The evacuees were slow to return.

tricolored heron ud141Late that evening, Dylan and I spotted the young Great Blue Heron on the bay. He too seemed to wonder where everyone had gone.

younger GBH UD141And so it continued for about three weeks. I started to get worried about Papa Stanley. He had made it through Irma’s 120 m/h wind gusts, but why was he not home? And where were all the other residents, including the Mayor, the Clown and Miss Rosa?

papa and mama osprey are at home ud141Then one morning in early November I looked out of my office window and discovered a large gathering at the marsh. That was a great sight…and out I ran to witness the return of the evacuees and the migrating visitors.

The first birds I spotted were Papa Stanley (yay!) and Mama Sandy. They were having a mid-morning snack, perhaps following a joint fishing trip. Papa was perching on a lamp-post and Mama at the nest. And they were keeping an eye on each other.

papa osprey eats and looks at mama osprey ud141

mama osprey at the nest 16x9 ud141Finally the marsh was busy. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks and others.

younger GBH and visitor wood storks ud141The younger GBH, who now looks very much like the Mayor, was patrolling the waters in his typical manner, pretending to be the boss. Some of the Wood Storks gave him the look.

wood stork ud141That’s when I saw a familiar fellow in the corner of my eye. The Mayor had returned! He was foraging far away, completely undisturbed.

the great blue heron Mayor fishing ud141_edited-2Knowing the history of these two, I thought things might get interesting. And before long, the Mayor discovered his young rival. He decided to check on the youngster.

the GBH Mayor moves in ud141_edited-2The young fellow noticed the developments. But he didn’t back off from his newly acquired position of power. Looking determined he continued his march…

young GBH ud141

younger GBH discovers mayor ud141… until he realized the Mayor was running on water. And closing in on him.

GBH ud141The Mayor took a detour onto a grassy islet, but continued his approach with determination.

the mayor ud141Tension was building. Everybody was watching.

three wood storksThat’s when I discovered that the Reddish Egret, the Clown, had returned. He was not performing his usual tricks. Instead, he stood frozen in place under some mangroves. Watching.

reddish egret ud141The little Snowy Egret, who was hiding in the grass close to the scene, decided it was better to keep some distance. One never knew what could happen.

a snowy egret ud141

snowy egret flies away ud141The Mayor continued his march, and finally the two ‘great blues’ were face to face.

young and old GBH face to face UD141And this is what happened…

The old Mayor still has the spark. The younger GBH ended up on dry land, his feathers all buffed up. He quickly assessed the situation – and walked away. Everyone seems to prefer it that way.

younger GBH ud141 A couple of days ago, Dylan and I went to the dog park in the middle of the day…and found the same crowd at the marsh – minus the younger ‘great blue’. The party was still going on. The Clown discovered my camera and decided to perform an elaborate bathing ritual for his captive audience.

Reddish Egret the Clown ud141

Reddish Egret takes a bath ud141

reddish egret sits in the water ud141We left this delightful ‘photobomber’ happily sitting in the shallow water. Normalcy has returned to the salt marsh.

mourning dove ud141Some of you may wonder what happened to Miss Rosa. I was pondering that too, until the other night. Dylan and I discovered her all alone at the marsh at sunset time. And she was there even last night. She is definitely back home too.

Miss Rosa the Roseate Spoonbill at sunset_edited-1Opening my terrace door this morning, I discovered that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were at the nest. That was remarkable. But Stanley’s early visit didn’t last long. Sandy told him in no uncertain terms to wait at least 4-5 more weeks. And promptly chased him away. He will be allowed in the nest only after a proposal dance and a special gift delivery. Traditions have to be respected. And everything has its right time.

mama osprey chases papa away from the nest ud141I noted that Irma, however powerful, had not been able to sweep the nest clean of building materials Sandy had put in place last year. But this couple will still need to do quite a bit of remodeling when the nesting season starts at the end of December.

With that, we all wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And peace.

Moon Happy Thsnksgiving

 

Happy Father’s Day, Papa Stanley!

This great dad celebrated this Father’s Day close to his little family on the bay side. After the day’s fishing trips, Stanley perched at the sailing center just before sunset. Like on so many evenings these past two weeks.

papa osprey watches Arlene ud131That is an excellent location to keep an eye on his daughter, Arlene, who seems to have a long-term rental on Marriott’s roof nearby. She was sleeping there with full crop while drying her wings. All was good in Papa Stanley’s world. One chick had survived and now, exactly three weeks after fledging, she was a thriving young Osprey. That was the best gift he could get.

arlene sleeps at sunset ud131_edited-1Mama Sandy kept an eye on their chick from the other side of the same roof. She likes to perch on the antenna, a high vantage point allowing straight line of sight to Arlene’s comings and goings. And a welcome nap after a hot day.

mama osprey on the roof ud131_edited-1From their respective vantage points, the Osprey family could see the nest and the salt marsh colored by the setting sun. If they looked carefully, they will have noticed that the Mayor and little Miss Rosanna have stricken a new friendship.

Great blue heron and roseate spoonbill at sunset ud131

roseate spoonbill B ud131

great blue heron B ud131_edited-1And on this evening they were able to observe the lively bird life on the bay too, like the Snowy Egret patrolling the seawall in her yellow shoes…

snowy egret at the seawall ud131…and the Little Blue Heron foraging nearby utilizing the low tide.

little blue heron at sunset ud131And of course they saw the sun about to dive into the Gulf on the other side of the salt marsh.

todays sunset ud131_edited-1After this beautiful day, Papa Stanley is likely retire to his secret spot in the park. And maybe he’ll stop for a while close to his favorite roosting branch and reflect on his day.

papa osprey after sunset ud131Happy Father’s Day to all other fathers too!

In Focus: Incredible Arlene

On a stormy evening late last week, Arlene was perching on the boat lift at the sailing center. She was scanning for fish. Suddenly she flew up, hovered for a few seconds above the water and dove feet first into the water. She didn’t catch the fish. Not yet. But she had all the right moves, including shaking off water in mid-air like a pro. This was less than two weeks after she fledged. And that’s nothing short of incredible. I didn’t carry the camera so you just have to take my word for it. Dylan is my witness. After coming home, I caught this picture of her from my terrace. She was back up there staring into the water…and she would try again. I call that determination.

arlene learns to fish on her own ud130She is scanning for fish often now. And her parents, after seeing her early progress, have clearly taken the back seat. Mama Sandy is still around occasionally keeping watch for any dangers. Sometimes I have not seen her for a day or two, but she comes when Arlene calls her. Like last night when the skies suddenly darkened and the wind picked up before strong thunderstorms. I could not see Arlene, but I heard her. She was somewhere on the roof. Sandy was flying towards her pushing against the strong winds. Really struggling. She came from the north along the bay side and landed on the roof. I guess Arlene needed adult company in the storm and her mama was there for her. Dylan and I ran home and rushed into our garage just when the first fat raindrops started falling. And then pretty much everything went out of focus.

storm on the bay out-of-focus 2 ud130Sandy probably feeds Arlene only once a day now, if that. Her parenting is encouraging independence. But still providing protection. And Arlene is confident in her abilities, as she has been from the day she fledged. A strong female leader in the making, as I see it.

Mama osprey keeps watch ud130On Sunday morning, Arlene’s two-week fledging anniversary,  I saw her perched at the sailing center. Ten minutes later I went for a walk and saw her eating on Marriott’s roof, at her favorite spot. I wouldn’t rule out it was the first fish she’s caught by herself. No parents were in sight.

arlene eats fish ud130Young Arlene has not followed the conventional path to independence. You see, normally, Osprey chicks stay at the nest being fed by their parents at least 4 weeks after fledging. They start to follow their parents on fishing trips during the 3rd week and start to try to fish on their own at 4-6 weeks after fledging. Not Arlene. She left the nest the day she fledged and directly started to fly with her folks. She was diving for fish 12 days after fledging…and now, 16 days after her fledging, I think she might be able to provide for herself already. I am sure Sandy will not stay in the vicinity for long. And Arlene, too, is likely to move a bit further soon. But as long as she stays here you’ll have ‘full and impartial coverage’ on this brave and beautiful chick by this media outlet.

Arlene at sunset June 9 ud130On Sunday, I also briefly visited the salt marsh between heavy showers. After two weeks of rains, everything at the salt marsh was green and the water level was high. Consequently many of the waders were keeping away for now. I guess they don’t like their bellies getting wet while wading in high waters.

salt marsh after the rains ud130But that memo had not reached the juveniles. Or perhaps they are more adventurous simply because they are not looking at the world through the lens of conventional wisdom. Some of them were happily wading on previously dry mud flats or amongst the high grass. First I spotted the same juvenile Little Blue Heron I saw a couple of weeks ago. He had turned much more blue already, as you can see.

juvenile little blue heron ud130

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud130The second juvenile wading at the marsh was a very small, young Green Heron. He still had some of his white ‘baby hairs’ right on the top of his head, but was bravely doing it alone.

juvenile green heron 2 ud130

juvenile green heron 1 ud130_edited-1The third juvenile I spotted was a Boat-tailed Grackle. She was in the company of her mother…and although she had fledged, she was still asking to be fed. Quite unlike Arlene.

female boat-tailed grackle with a juvenile ud130_edited-1The fourth juvenile, the Roseate Spoonbill I had named Rosanna, was observing life from a tree at the deep water channel.

young roseate spoonbill ud130The only adult wader I encountered was the beautiful Snowy Egret. I thought she looked like a white flower in the midst of the green grass.

snowy egret ud130And that’s when they arrived, the two Black Skimmers. They flew at extremely high speeds while skimming the surface, water spraying all around them. They put on a wild show. I enjoyed trying to catch them in flight. But they did beat me time after time…resulting in many pictures of water, sky and grass – without a Skimmer. One has to learn one’s limitations the hard way.

black skimmer 1 ud130_edited-2.jpg

black skimmer skimming ud130 We all wish you a wonderful rest of the week. Thank you for visiting.

Mama Osprey is Sad. On Mother’s Day.

Returning from our South Florida vacation last weekend, I looked out towards the Osprey nest from my terrace expecting to see two rowdy chicks. The nest was deadly quiet. And no Mama Sandy in sight. That in itself was not alarming because Osprey moms go fishing after the chicks are six weeks old. But there was no movement at all.

After a couple of hours, at sunset time, Dylan and I walked through the marsh. I could see Sandy had returned. Taking a picture from the far end of the marsh, I could see her next to two small ‘heaps’ that could have been chicks. But they did not move.

Mama osprey at sunset w two heaps ud124After a brief visit to the dog park, we walked closer to the nest as the sun was going down. Papa Stanley had arrived with a fish for supper.

papa osprey brought a fish at sunset ud124He had settled on the perch instead of giving the fish to Sandy like he always does. And I didn’t hear the typical frenzied song ‘gimme fish’. I didn’t hear anything. Something was terribly wrong. Sandy remained where she had been, next to the smaller ‘heap’. She was not interested in eating. I was wondering what could have happened to the two healthy chicks I had seen just a few days before we left on our trip early in the week. An attack by a large bird, like a Great Horned Owl, who also nests somewhere in the park or a Bald Eagle, who nests on the other side of the bay? Or the younger Great Blue Heron, who had attacked the nest previously? Or perhaps something large hitting the nest in the violent storm that had passed through on Friday night and left huge amounts of debris on the ground everywhere? Or an illness? I had thousand questions, but there were no answers.

mama osprey is grieving ud124Early in the week, when I checked on the nest, Sandy remained at about the same spot. It seemed as if she was grieving. I felt sad and was afraid she might have lost or was about to lose both her chicks to some tragic event or illness while I was away. I had not wanted (read: dared) to take any pictures from my terrace, but that night at sunset time, I finally did.grieving mama osprey ud124

I could see a chick with its head up. One was still alive! I could also see something right next to Sandy that could have been the remains of the other chick. It was difficult to tell. The next day I observed the nest often from my terrace worrying the other chick might also die because it didn’t move about. Finally I saw some wing movements. Not vigorous flapping, as could be expected of a chick of 6+ weeks, but a slow stretch of a wing. That was a sign I had been waiting for. One chick was alive, seemingly recovering. It was still not moving around the nest like they normally do, but stretching a wing was definitely a good sign. Then on Wednesday, I saw the chick was eating. Not fed by Sandy anymore, but eating directly from the fish. Another good sign. I went out to the marsh to try to spot the chick.

mama osprey and the remaining chick ud124The chick held a low profile while I was close by, but from the street, far away between the big trees, I captured it asking for more fish. It had not grown much while I was away, but it had recovered! I was grateful it was not the worst case scenario I had feared.

Yesterday I went out again. From afar I could see the little family of three at the nest.

osprey family ud124When I arrived at the marsh, Stanley had left.  Sandy flew up to the perch to give the chick plenty of room to exercise and preen. And it did.

mama osprey flies up to the perch 2 ud124.jpg

osprey chick flexes her wings ud124Then it started ‘working’, perhaps making the nest more comfortable to move around. I am hoping that the chick will now recover fully from whatever happened, grow and start flying lessons in the next two weeks.

Osprey chick works on the nest 124Knowing the chick was well on the mend, I walked around the marsh and this time paid attention to all the other residents too. The gorgeous Miss Rosa was there. First she foraged in the shallows, then sat down on a little islet to straighten up her hot pink dress – and finally flew away to the inner parts of the park.

Roseate spoonbill ud124

Roseate spoonbill 2 ud124

Roseate spoonbill in flight ud124What a delightful sight she was! The Mayor was there too, close to his ‘office’. He was keeping a keen eye on Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

the great blue heron mayor 2 ud124Harry, who was a really bad boy when he was younger, was hiding in the shadows close to the Osprey nest. I sincerely hoped the drama that had taken place was not caused by him.

young great blue heron ud124When he came out of hiding a bit later, I noticed his tail feathers had been ruffled… but I will not pronounce him guilty because I did not witness anything this time around.

harry the young great blue heron ud124The beautiful Tri-colored Heron was chasing small fish in the shallows.

tri-colored heron ud124And a Snowy Egret was calmly observing life from the edge of the water installation.

snowy egret ud124When I walked further towards the beach, I spotted the Clown, the Reddish Egret. He was fun to watch, as always. His red hair flew from side to side with his sudden movements. Gotcha!reddish egret fishing 1 ud124.jpg

reddish egret fishing 2 ud124The Little Blue Heron tried to imitate his dramatic foraging style. And successfully snapped a lunch bite.

little blue heron ud124Everything was back to normal at the marsh, minus one Osprey chick. But that is life. We will never know what happened, but we can root for the remaining chick. And hope it recovers fully, fledges, learns to fish and becomes a happy, productive member of the Osprey community. That is a wish that we mothers have for our young.

mama osprey and papa oprey mothers day ud124I wish Mama Sandy and all mothers in the readership a Happy Mother’s Day ❤

Danger, Thrill and Beauty. The Unique Blend in the Everglades.

My orange-colored ear plug fell on the floor. Then it flew overboard and disappeared in water spray. The roar of the airboat engine grew exponentially as we flew over the sawgrass prairie at high speed.

airboat in everglades ud123When we slowed down and finally stopped altogether, the sky and land seemed to merge here, in the middle of this unique wilderness of 1.5 million acres. I took out the remaining ear plug. And listened.

saw grass prerie in Everglades ud123The sawgrass prairie was beautiful and very peaceful. But danger was lurking in the shallow water, only 4-5 feet/1.2-1.5 meters deep on average. Over 200,000 alligators with a typical body length of 9-12 feet, a mouth equipped with 80 sharp teeth and over 1000 pounds of closing power in their jaws, call this swamp home.

alligator swimming in everg;ades ud123

alligator sunning itself ud123They went about their daily life quietly in the water and on land. I was, without a doubt, a guest in their home.

an alligator swims away ud123

Alligator in everglades on the roadside ud123Luckily humans are not on their menu unless we threaten their young. They observed me as I observed them, keenly, and I could see the skies reflected in their eyes. Mesmerizing.

alligator eye 1 ud123I understood that in the Everglades, one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, danger is married to beauty.

mangroves and sawgrass in Everglades ud123

Everglades mangrove forest ud123

everglades trees ud123The sawgrass prairie bloomed with Spider Lily and other beautiful flowers.

spider lilies in everglades 3 ud123

flowers in everglades ud123

flowering Everglades ud123And so did the hammocks.

flowering bush in Everglades ud123I found the airplants most intriguing. A seed lands on a tree, then grows and blooms. Just like that. One of the thousands of small miracles in nature.

airplants in everglades ud123And crisscrossing the prairie I found many of my favorite marsh birds, like the Great Blue Heron, the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret.

saw grass prerie in Everglades 2 ud123

great blue heron in Everglades ud123

great egret in Everglades ud123

snowy egret in everglades ud123A family of Wood Storks got disturbed by our noisy approach and took flight.

woodstork in Everglades ud123

two woodstorks in flight ud123

wood storks in flight ud123And I spotted impressive Osprey nests, several feet high. At one of them, a juvenile was considering the benefits and dangers of flying. Her mommy watched nearby. And waited.

osprey chick ud123

an Osprey chick in Everglades 2 ud123

mother osprey in Everglades ud123I saw many other birds enjoy the peace of this wilderness, like this Red-Shouldered Hawk, but it was a challenge to ‘shoot’ them from a fast moving airboat.

Hawk in the Everglades ud123Particularly if they were moving too, like this female Anhinga, who was trying to swallow her catch.

female anhinga 2 in Everglades ud123Coming back to the airboat station, I spotted two familiar handsome males. A Red-Winged Blackbird and a Boat-Tailed Grackle.

a large airboat ud123

male red-winged blackbird ud123

male boat-tailed grackle ud123From here my journey continued through the Big Cypress National Preserve. I made some interesting discoveries, like the smallest federal building in the US, the Ochopee Post Office.

smallest post office in the us ud123I also visited some wildlife centers on my way to Everglades City, which really was a small, idyllic village with a few roads and houses on stilts due to frequent flooding.

building in everglades city ud123I also spotted both modern and older versions of swamp buggies parked in front of the houses.

modern swamp buggy ud123

swamp buggy in Everglades city ud123And found a nice place for lunch. Alligator was on the menu, but I opted for a chicken sandwich.

lunch place ud123

cocos palms in Everglades 2 ud123Arriving to the western side of the Everglades, I visited the historic museum in Chokoloskee, an area inhabited for centuries by the Calusa people, and for thousands of years by their ancestors.

Indian museum ud123

chokoloskee museum ud123My last adventure was a boat cruise through the western Everglades mangrove estuary known as the 10,000 Islands.

mangrove forest in everglades ud123After speeding past many islands, we suddenly got company. Two Bottlenose Dolphins followed our ‘sister boat’ and then kept diving back and forth under our boat. In addition to us humans, dolphins are the only other wild species that like to play and have fun 🙂  Unfortunately coming up for a photo-op was not included in their scheme of fun for the day.

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two dolphins dive under the boat ud123After a while they decided the fun was over and headed for their own underwater explorations. We continued towards the ocean past lovely small islands until we reached the southern Gulf of Mexico.

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Southern Gulf of mexico ud123On our way back, we got company again. A young West Indian Manatee stayed with us for quite a while. This ‘sea cow’ can stay under water up to 40 minutes at a time so it was a thrill to capture it coming up for a breath next to our boat a couple of times.

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manatee 3 ud123Close to the shore I spotted an Osprey in flight above a mangrove island. That was a great ending to my adventure in the Everglades.

osprey 1 in Everglades ud123It was an unforgettable trip from the eastern Everglades through the Big Cypress National Preserve to the western Everglades. And I am more determined than ever to do what I can to preserve this wonderful wilderness, and others, for the future generations.

Thank you for coming along. See you later alligator.

Alligator 2 in everglades ud123