Alligators, Anhingas, And Cormorants, , Despite The Cold, A Lot Of Wildlife At Royal Palm In The Everglades
After my cold morning walk in Key Largo, and seeing the frozen iguana, my expectations of seeing alligators in the Everglades that afternoon weren’t great. I love visiting the Everglades National Park, I have been visiting here in the Winter for about 10 years now. It was always so alive always so alive and even on the coldest days I would see some wildlife. However, I thought, alligators, being cold blooded like the iguana, may not be out on this cold day. After my quick hotel breakfast, I left Key Largo and arrived at the Royal Palm visitor center around noon. It was sunny but still cool when I arrived.
I walked over to the lake near the visitor center and was surprised saw this alligator lying along the lake. I knew there would be more, like mushrooms you never see only one. If there is one alligator you will see more on the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm.
Most years I am attacked by swarms of mosquitoes on this trail. Not this year, not a one bothered me on my four mile hike. Waling under the canopy of branches, I love how the sun filters through, illuminating leaves near the ground. , this is a wild coffee leaf.
And there were many coco plum trees growing along the trail. However there was no fruit yet. I have learned their fruit is edible and have eaten it on my visits to the Everglades in March. It is very tasty.
I left the Gumbo-Limbo trail and followed a trail on a utility right-of-way that leads to Hidden Lake, a restricted environmental research center, and the Old Ingraham Highway Trail.
As I approached the Old Ingraham Highway I noticed that all of the lush vegetation along the trail was removed, exposing a large lake. I learned this was down as part of a major reconstruction project to restore water flow on the Taylor Slough that was obstructed when the highway was built in the 1920’s as access to Flamingo.
Sloughs are river of grass that flow through the Everglades. Unfortunately , the Old Ingraham Highway Trail was closed during the construction. I was deeply disappointed, this was, by far, my favorite hiking trail in the Everglades. I saw so much wildlife hiking on this remote trail. I loved the solitude. I rarely saw another human being. I later learned the project will help return the area to it’s original natural condition and will help rid the many invasive plant and animal species that invaded the area. However, it make 20 years for this to take place. Hopefully, I will see the results and hike here when this occurs.
I had already walked 4 miles and, after my 4 mile walk in Key Largo, and was a little tired. However, I decided to take one more walk on the Anhinga Trail. It was a good decision. I was at the right place at the right time for two events. The first , I knew something was happening when a group of folks were gathered on the boardwalk, leaning over and watching something in the lagoon,
and try again. It was amazing to watch and I was lucky to be able to photograph this scene and share it. I took dozens of photos and would encourage you to have a look. Here is a link to a gallery with more cool photos of the cormorant swallowing the catfish. Florida Day Six Everglades Royal Palm cormorant. January 15 2023.
A ranger was assigned to direct people away from the sleeping, but always dangerous, reptile. I approached the ranger and joked about petting the alligator. The alligator stirred, got up and popped right in front of us.
It was a very unique and interesting experience. A first for me for sure, and for the ranger too. She said she never saw this in her 25 year career as a ranger in the Everglades. Again, right place , right time, pretty cool to see a cormorant choking on a catfish and an alligator pooping. I love the Everglades!!!. Here is a link to a gallery on my blog site with some more photos of the alligators and birds I saw on my hike. Florida Day Six Everglades Royal Palm critters January 15 2023.
I finished my now 5 mile hike and decided to drive to the Visitor Center at the entrance to the park to learn more about the closure of the Old Ingraham Highway trail. I wanted to see if there were any similar hikes in the Everglades . I was told of a trail out to Lucky Hammock . It was not within the borders of Everglades National Park, but I was told it is a nice hike and there are many species of birds living in the hammock. It planned to give it a try the next morning. Here is a link to a gallery with some more photos from my hike. Florida Day Six Everglades Royal Palm January 15 2023.
I left the Everglades Visitor Center and drove the 15 minute drive the Best Western Gateway to the Keys hotel in Florida City. I love this quaint little place and have stayed here for a number of years now. It was now late afternoon when I checked in, unpacked and settled into my room where I would stay the next three nights. I debated driving back out to the Everglades to look for the sunset, but it was cold, and I was tired, I hiked over 9 miles, and very hungry. I was looking forward to a hearty, home cooked meal at the Farmer’s Market Restaurant located a few blocks from my hotel.
I eat almost all of my meals at this pleasant restaurant. Their homecooked meals are filling and delicious. I was never disappointed. I ordered one of my southern favorites, fried catfish, mashed potatoes and fried cabbage. It was delicious.
And of course I had my first slice of Key Lime pie. It was a good meal. I returned to me room, edited some photos and fell asleep looking forward to another day of enjoying and exploring South Florida.
“Never apologize for being over sensitive and emotional when defending the welfare of wildlife.
Let this be a sign that you have a big heart and aren’t afraid to show your true feelings.
These emotions give you the strength to fight for what is right and to be the voice of those who cannot be heard.”