Florida Day Three. An Early Morning Drive to Flamingo, The Southern most Point In The Everglades
I was up even earlier on my third day in South Florida. I planned to visit Flamingo, about 47 miles from my hotel in Florida City, and the southernmost point in the Everglades. But first, I hoped to catch the sunrise in the cypress forests at the Pa Hay Okee Overlook. So I began my drive in the dark and arrived at the overlook in the morning twilight.
It was an eerie, but peaceful feeling, out here alone in the middle of this vast “river of grass”. Other then the sound of a passing motor vehicle in the distance on the main road I heard only the sounds of nature. I liked the solitude. Walking along the road as I waited for the sunrise I noticed the high water levels of the Everglades this year. The water was at the edge of the road. Some years I can walk in a few hundred feet trying to capture a photograph of the rising sun. Not this year. Wading in that water may put you on an alligators breakfast menu.
As I walked along the cypress trees growing in this high ground of the Everglades I saw a few blue herons flying above , heard the songs and cries of many other birds and saw these immature white ibises foraging in the waters along the road.
Clouds obscured the sunrise but it was still a nice walk through this unique part of the Everglades. The sun finally broke through the clouds as I drove toward Flamingo.
On the drive to Flamingo I saw many egrets, blue herons flying over the wetlands and a few hawks perched in the trees. I was able to photograph this one, I believe it is a red shouldered hawk perched in a tree along the road.
There are a number of small ponds and lakes on the drive to Flamingo. You could spend a day just visiting them but I drove straight through stopping only once, at one of my favorites, Mrazek Pond.
Most years you will find many species of water birds on this pond. This year only a few, a wood stork wading in the distance, a few blue herons flying overhead, this flock of American white pelicans on the ponds (notice the cormorant swimming into the photo),
and a brown pelican that flew away as I approached the pond. This is supposed to be a good place to see roseate spoonbills but I haven’t seen one here yet.
I was only about 5 miles from Flaming0 and soon arrived there and visited another pond, also a place known to spot roseate spoonbills, Eco Pond.
This small pond is known for a number of species of birds and, I was delighted to find, as soon as I began my walk this lone roseate spoonbill perched on a log.
It seems I have something in common with these beautiful birds, as they get older they lose feathers from the tops of their head and become bald. It was a nice sighting for me and I watched this unique bird for a few minutes.
Continuing my walk around the lake I saw a pair of pied-billed grebes swimming in the morning sun.
There were a lot of smaller birds around the lake too, many who avoided my camera, but I was able to capture this familiar bird, a cardinal.
There were a few tropical white morning glories blooming along the trail .
There were a few egrets on the water too, I am not sure but I believe this is a great egret, but I could be wrong and it may be a snowy egret.
A kingfisher fluttered around the lake chattering as they do, and avoiding my camera. I did capture this pileated woodpecker in flight. In addition to the birds there were also hoards of hungry mosquitos at the lake, causing me to end my birdwatching here.
As I was leaving Eco Pond I looked up and saw this magnificent hawk perched in a tree.
I am not an expert on hawks but again believe it is a brown shouldered hawk.
It stayed perched in the tree unconcerned with me walking around below with my camera. There are a lot more photos of this beautiful bird in the gallery on my blog page. I will post the link below.
Next, I drove through the active campsite at Flamingo. I was surprised that is was full. It is always a pleasant sight to see people camping outdoors and getting close to nature. I drove through the campgrounds and into the abandoned camping area and old cabins. I posted a blog last year on this sight. I parked here and began my hike on the Coastal Prairie Trail.. The trail begins under a grove of trees covered in Spanish moss.
It proceeds through some coastal plants the name of which I forgot. I did notice that the trail has become more overgrown this past year.
It leads to a split in the trail, one being the Coastal Prairie Trail and the one I followed, that led down to the Florida Bay.
The abundance of water this year is again apparent from how the bay has encroached upon the trail. In prior years egrets, wood storks ibises and other shore birds foraged for food in muddy shallow pools between the bay and the trail. This year the trail is next to the waters of the bay, and the mangrove trees that grow here.
I followed the trail even though parts were washed out by the encroaching waters. As I was walked I saw the seashell move.
Turning it over I found it was the home of a very shy crab.
The trail followed the bay for about a half mile when returned back to the Coastal Prairie Trail. I followed this trail for about a mile. It is not shaded that that quickly rising morning sun soon heats up the trail. I decided to return.
As I made my way back I saw this hawk flew overhead. I am not an expert on hawks but I believe it is a northern harrier hawk. Not really sure now, looking at this and the one I posted early. That may be a Cooper’s hawk too. Birds are confusing, but they are beautiful .
Well this next bird I am sure of, anyway. I knew I may see one as soon as I saw this nest.
And sure enough I soon heard the shrill cries of this osprey, and it wasn’t happy with me approaching it’s nest. It is , of course, the easily identified osprey.
It continued to fly overhead, shrieking loudly, until I left the vicinity of it’s nest.
On my walk back to my car I saw a few of these birds, I think they are palm warblers, scurrying in the vegetation along the trails.
with the two adults and this juvenile.
After returning to my car I drove to the marina to look around. There have been manatees visit here but I have never seen one. And I didn’t that day either.
However, I returned to the same sight where I found an osprey nest last year, and, sure enough, it was still day, with mommy , daddy
osprey and a few young ones. I couldn’t get a photo of the chicks but mom and dad didn’t mind posing.
It is interesting how these ospreys have become accustomed to human activity and the one I saw in the wild hasn’t.
Here is a link to a gallery with photos of some more the the birds I saw on my visit to Flamingo. Florida Day Three Everglades morning drive birds February 19 2021.
After walking around the marina at Flamingo I got a water and cup of coffee at the shop and took a slow ride back to Florida City. I hoped to see some more wildlife but, while I saw a lot of birds, nothing new worth stopping for. I had another breakfast take out order from Farm Market, ate in my room , edited some photos and finally relaxed, for a little bit, at the pool. Here is a link to some more photographs from my morning drive to Flamingo. Florida Day Three morning drive February 19 2021.
“There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them; their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of the their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. 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, The Everglades: River of Grass, 1947