Florida Day One: Birds, Butterflies And Alligators: A Mid-Afternoon Hike In Shark Valley In The Everglades.

Florida Day One: Birds, Butterflies And Alligators: A Mid-Afternoon Hike In Shark Valley In The Everglades.

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I love the Florida Everglades. The everglades are a flooded, flat grasslands unique, on our planet, to Southern Florida. I first learned of the Everglades watching the Flipper and Gentle Ben television shows in the 1960’s ( yes I am old). I remember imagining exploring the Everglades and looking for alligators and snakes on an airboat. It was almost 25 years ago when  I did get to visit the Everglades. It was at Shark Valley and I  did take a tour on an airboat. I have loved this wonderful world of water and grass ever since. I have been visiting the  Everglades every Winter  now for almost 1o years.

This year I am especially excited on my  visit for two reasons.  The first,  I will be staying at the new lodge in Flamingo on the Florida Bay, the southernmost point in the Everglades, next week. The Everglades at night will be super cool. And,  the second, I returned to visit Shark Valley for only the second time. In the past  I have been staying in Florida City and exploring the southern portion of the Everglades National Park. This year I will spend two days exploring Shark Valley and the northern area of the Everglades National Park.

My early morning flight had me in my hotel,  the Miccosuckee Casino and Resort located on Route 41  by 1 p.m.. I was soon checked in, unpacked, and back out driving the 15 miles to the Shark Valley Visitor Center. 

Shark Valley’s main attraction is  a 15 mile loop trail into the Shark River Slough, a river of grass that flows south to the Florida Bay. There are trams that take visitors on a 2 hour  drive and educational tour about Shark Valley and  the Everglades.

One can also walk or bike  on the paved trail, as I did when I arrived around 2;00 p.m. This in mid-afternoon and it was mostly sunny and hot. This is not  the best time for hiking or observing wildlife. Temperatures were near  80 degrees and the  Florida sun was intense.

There were not many birds active in this heat but I did see a few alligators sleeping in the water along the shore of a canal on the western loop of the trail.

And there were many dragonflies and butterflies active in the mid-day heat. I saw dozens of  Halloween pennant skimmer dragonflies

darting over the spatterdock pond lily,

and lily pads in the canal, or perched on stems of plants along the shore.

I also saw eastern pond hawk dragonflies, also common back home in Northeastern Pennsylvania in Summer.

There were also a few pickerelweed flowers,

and many bull thistle flowers blooming along the trail. I see  these flowers on my hikes back home too. .  

Black swallowtail and

viceroy butterflies also fluttered above the flowers along the trail.  Both are  very common back home.

And the first bird I heard was this old red-winged blackbird another familiar bird I encounter on every hike in fields or wetlands in Pennsylvania .  These insects and birds made me feel like I was hiking in the wetlands or community park near my home in mid Summer. It is eternal Summer  here in Florida, and even in mid-day heat there is so much to see. I love it here.

And I saw a lot of wildlife I don’t see in Pennsylvania. I was hoping to see more alligators on my hike, I only saw a few and none posed for photos. They all had there heads away from the trail or covered with grass.

However this anhinga or snake bird did pose for me.

It was spreading it’s wings to dry in the sun. after diving in the water for a fish, it’s primary food.

You can see, by looking at it’s long neck, why it is called a snake bird.

I continued on the trail, there were only a  few  other folks in the hot sun.  And, after I had hiked out about a mile I saw almost no one.

The first mile of the trail had many trees and shrubs along it’s edges and near the canal,

I knew a few such as the cocoplum trees, but many were unfamiliar to me.

Although there was not much bird or wildlife activity in the afternoon heat, I still enjoyed hiking on the trail and observing the many pretty wildflowers in bloom, including, I think, if my plant app is correct,  golden marguerites,

saltmarsh morning glories

prairie fleabane, 

and spider lilies.

The trail  continued on and came to the vast expanse of grass. It looks like it is dry but as you get closer you can see  the grass is growing in water, i.e.  the ‘river of grass’.

I hiked out 2 1/2 miles, and began my hike back.

I was tired, hot and thirsty  It was later in the afternoon and a little cooler on my return hike.

There were a few birds active now. I saw a few palm warblers,

and white eyed vireos along the trail. 

There were  a few more anhinga in the grass, and,

 a great egret,

and turkey vulture flew overhead.

As I was getting close to the Visitor Center a tram passed by,

and I saw more hikers and bikers heading out for a late afternoon walk.

 I saw one more bird on my five mile hike, a purple gallinule. I love seeing these colorful birds on my visit to Florida. Here is a link to a gallery with some more ph0tos of the birds I saw on my five mile hike on the Shark Valley Trail. Florida Day One Everglades Shark Valley birds. March 29 2024.

I didn’t see any more birds or wildlife on my hike. While I didn’t expect to see many birds in the afternoon heat, I  was hoping to have seen more alligators on five mile hike. It was still a great walk, reminding me of the hot days of July and August back home in Pennsylvania. They are my favorite days of the year and it was nice to experience another one here in Florida. Here is a link to a gallery with some more ph0tos from  my five mile hike on the Shark Valley Trail. Florida Day One Everglades Shark Valley . March 29 2024.

I drove the i5 miles back to the hotel. I was hungry  so, after showering I decided to have an early dinner at the Casino restaurant, the La Brisa. It was a good choice. I had delicious brioche rolls with agave rosemary butter,

and a whole fried red snapper with coconut rice was  also delicious and filling. I like to eat. It was a long day, I was up at 3 :15 a.m.  So after dinner I edited some photos and retired early, thinking about another day exploring the northern Florida Everglades, just like I did when I was a child.

The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass. -Marjory Stoneman Douglas