My fourth day of exploration of South Florida continued last Saturday when I drove to Royal Palm in the Everglades to watch the sunrise and hike the Gumbo-Limbo and Anhinga trails.
A cold front passed through overnight bringing strong winds and dropping temperatures into the low 60’s. That is as cold as it gets in the Everglades. Needless to say this certainly affected the wildlife sightings on the trails.
There were no people or wildlife on my quick hike through the walkways and paths of the Anhinga Trail.
Well, only one critter stirred, one used to these cooler temperatures from their migration to Pennsylvania in the spring, a lone red-winged blackbird sat in the sea of grass swaying in the strong winds.
It was very windy on the Anhinga Trail so I headed to the Gumbo- Limbo Trail which meanders through a small forest of hardwood trees. My favorite are the reddish gumbo-limbo trees that are scattered along the trail and which gives it it’s name.
But once again no wildlife, just a few catbirds and these strange insects on this fern.
So I followed the trail out to Hidden Lake again. There weren’t even any insect or any of the hoards of dragonflies I had seen on my previous hike.
This time I walked past the lake and decided to explore some more of the Everglades. I followed the old Ingraham Highway Trail. I learned this highway was built in 1922 to travel to Flamingo at the southernmost point of the Everglades. It was abandoned when the new road to Flamingo was built in the 1960’s. At the onset a vast wetland of water and reeds were on the right of the trail.
And here I finally had some better luck observing some wildlife. I first saw a wood stork wading in the shallow waters.
It quickly flew off as I approached.
In a tree along the trail I saw my first southern squirrel on this trip. He was scurrying in the branches of a tree feeding on the leaves I think.
I think the wind and cold discouraged other bird activity since the large the flooded saw grass prairies looked like ideal habitat for wading birds. The only other bird I saw on my hike was this black vulture soaring overhead.
There were a lot of insects on the trail. Fortunately not too many mosquitos, probably because of the wind, but there were a lot of the brown dragonflies darting in the wind.
And quite a few of these butterflies fluttering in the wind and occasionally landing on one of the many wildflowers I saw on my hike.
My favorite were the rose of plymouth or marsh pink according to my plant identification app.
There were also a lot of pretty yellow thistle growing along the trail.
Of course the tropical oceanblue morning glory were also growing along the trail.
There were also these flowers, identified by my Plant Identification App as porterweed and
After hiking about a half mile I saw a car parked along the trail.
Apparently, you could drive out here. As I approached the car I saw the road was gated and marked Gate 15. Only hikers and bicyclists could continue onward. And I did, for about another mile.
The trail continued through some more marshes and eventually I came to some cypress tress. growing along the trail, an indication of higher elevation, but only in matters of inches or a foot or two.
There were more flowers growing along the trail including three I was familiar with from my hiking wetlands back home in Pennsylvania, some white arrowheads,
blue pickerelweed and
I ended my hike as the trail approached a hammock with higher ground and thicker vegetation. I wanted to keep hiking but decided to head back and return again another day.
There were not many birds active on the rest of my hike back to the Anhinga and Gumbo-Limbo trails. I think this was because of the colder temperatures and heavy winds.
On my return walk I did see some of the beautiful zebra heliconian butterflies fluttering in the woods on the Gumbo-Limbo trail.
And back on the Anhinga Trail,
I saw this palm warbler feasting on a large dragonfly it had captured.
The little bird was having a hard time figuring out how to eat its prey.
It was sunny and windy when I was finishing up my seven mile hike when I finally saw another large animal, an alligator!
As I stated in my previous posts from this trip there are usually dozens of this ancient creatures sunning on the trail. I was glad to see this medium sized alligator swimming in the waters along the trail.
This was only the second one on this trip so far. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs of the birds I saw on my hike. Florida Day Four Everglades morning hikes February 20 2021.
After photographing the alligator I saw a cormorant and a lot of black vultures but I think the wind and cooler temperatures discouraged the wildlife from making an appearance. The weather forecast called for warmer weather over the next few days and I was glad. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photographs from my hike. Florida Day Four: Everglades morning hike February 20 2021.
“You could step on a gator and the next thing you know is ouch.”