Everglades National Park, Day 5 – Tuesday – February 12, 2013

Day 5 – Sunrise, Eco Pond, Tree Walk  

Since we arrived at Flamingo, it has been quite windy.  Actually, that’s a GOOD thing!!  When the wind is up, the bugs are down;o))  So we have been bug free since we arrived.  But there are comprises to be made.  As much as we would like to kayak some of the open water of Florida Bay, the winds are too strong for that.  So today, we decided do the 2 hour Tree Walk with the ranger.  But first, there is the Sunrise to see and a visit to Eco Pond!!  

Nancy went alone to see the sunrise and check on things at Eco Pond today. 

I was being a bit lazy…my bad;o(( 
Looks like I missed a beautiful sunrise!!
First Bit of Daylight                                                   Ibis Beginning Their Day01 - pre-sunrise  02 - Ibis starting their day

First Peek of the Sun                                                                Getting Brighter 03 - Almost Sunrise 04 - Little more Sunrise 

WOW… What a BEAUTIFUL View!!!05 -  Sunrise

The Walk-in Tent Area sure does have the best views in the campground!!!

Perhaps you remember how hard Nancy tried to get a good picture of an American Kestrel when we were at Jonathan Dickinson State Park.  Today, as she headed from viewing the sunrise toward Eco Pond, she saw a Kestrel high in a dead tree on the side of the road.

The American Kestrel is North America’s littlest falcon.

It is roughly the size and shape of a Mourning Dove and hunts for insects and other small prey.06c - American Kestrel 06d - American Kestrel

The rising sunlight sure made for a great photo!!

Nancy could see that it had something in its right claw??06 - American Kestrel and froggy breakfast 

Well alrighty…. frog legs for breakfast!!! 06b - American Kestrel froglegs for breakfast


Eco Pond was much quieter than usual.  Not many birds or birders!!!

But there is always something to see:o))

Momma Osprey and her chick08 - Eco Pond - Osprey Nest with Mom and Chick


Red-bellied Woodpecker
08h - Eco Pond - Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Tricolored Heron                                                          Wood Stork08c - Eco Pond - Tri-Colored Heron 08f - Eco Pond - Wood Stork

White Pelicans
08e - Eco Pond - White Pelicans


A new bird to us – Black Necked Stilt
08d - Eco Pond - Black Necked Stilt


The Tree Walk with the ranger was at 2 o’clock.  Since I had been basically lazy all morning, we decided to ride over to the visitor center a little early and see what we could see before the walk began.

We headed down the Guy Bradley Trail toward the Visitor Center and Marina.09 - Guy Bradley Path - Riding to Tree Walk and marina

We didn’t get very far before we saw an Osprey enjoying his lunch and another circling overhead!!
09a - Guy Bradley Path - Osprey with afternoon snack  09b - Guy Bradley Path - Osprey Soaring


A little further along the trail we saw another hawk. 

We think it is a young Red Shoulder Hawk, but we are not sure.
09c - Guy Bradley Path - Young Red Shoulder Hawk09c2 - Guy Bradley Path - Young Red Shoulder Hawk

Over at the Marina, a Little Blue Heron was getting a bit wind blown.09d3 - Marina - Little Blue Heron


Of course we had to check the favorite sunning spot of the Crocodiles.

Yep, there were two of them just taking a little snooze;o))
09d - Marina - Crocodiles 09d2 - Marina - Crocodiles Closeup


We locked our bikes at the visitor center and met the ranger who would lead the Tree Walk.

We headed first to the Guy Bradley Trail where we learned about Mangroves.

10 - Tree Walk - mangrove poster

Red Mangroves have the branching roots.
10 - Tree Walk - mangrove poster Red Mangrove

Black Mangroves are very dark and have pencils (pneumatophores) sticking up all around them.10 - Tree Walk - mangrove poster Black Mangrove10 - Tree Walk - mangrove poster Black Mangrove breathing tubes

I love the name of this vine – Knickerbean:o))10 - Tree Walk - nickerbean vine 

We also saw Wild Papayas along the trail!!
10a - Wild Papaya10a - Tree Walk - Wild Papaya


Next we headed toward the parking lot.  There are two predominant trees here.

First, the West Indian Mahogany
10c - Tree Walk - Mahogany Tree Sign

These are magnificent trees that remind me of Live Oaks in South Carolina. 10d - Tree Walk - Mahogany Tree

Mahogany Seed Pod and a Mahogany Seed
10a1 - Tree Walk - Mahogany Nuts10b - Tree Walk - Mahogany Seed

The other tree has the coolest name: Gumbo-Limbo10e - Tree Walk - Gumbo Limbo Plaque

These unique trees stand out with their reddish bark.10e1 - Tree Walk - Gumbo Limbo

We had heard about Strangler Figs and probably had seen one before but just didn’t know what we were looking at. Here is a picture of a Strangler Fig that has completely engulfed a Palm Tree.  Can you see the Palm there in the middle??10f2 - Tree Walk - Stangler Fig

The Ranger explained that birds eat the small figs produced by the Strangler Fig and then deposit the seeds high in the host tree.  In this case the Palm Tree.  The roots grow down and use the host tree for support until they reach the ground.  The Strangler Fig does not kill the host tree!!
10f - Tree Walk - Stangler Fig10f3 - Tree Walk - Huge Stangler Fig

We ended our walk near Florida Bay and this lovely Sea Grape Tree!!10i - Tree Walk - Sea Grape
The Tree Walk was well worth the time. We were familiar with the Topical Palm Trees but it was so interesting to learn about the other trees that make up this beautiful tropical landscape!!

Everglades National Park, Day 4 – Monday–February 11, 2013

Day 4 – Eco Pond, Noble Hammock Kayak Trail, Nine Mile Pond, West Lake, Coot Bay Pond

Our day started out with just two objectives.  Nancy wanted to go to Eco Pond to look for Roseate Spoonbills and then the two of us planned to kayak the Noble Hammock Kayak Trail. 

Our plans got altered a bit,
so I have included this map for your reference later in the blog;o))
10 - Flamingo Area Trail Map
Nancy here:  Our day started at Eco Pond,  a short walk from the campground.  
As I rounded the entrance to the pond,
I realized that the PROFESSIONALS had beat me to the view;o(
01 - Early Morning Eco Pond Sign  01e - Early Morning Eco Pond - Birders out in force
As I inched forward, trying to sneak a peak,
the only Roseate Spoonbill there took flight!!
01b - Early Morning Eco Pond - Roseate Spoonbill flying away
He was kind enough to circle around right over my head:o))01d - Early Morning Eco Pond - Roseate Spoonbill flying overhead
They are beautiful and strange looking birds!!
Since there was no room to see at this spot, I decided to walk the trail around the pond. 
Turns out there was a lot more to be seen on the trail than on the water today!!
Pileated Woodpeck                                                         Cardinal
01g - Early Morning Eco Pond - Pileated Woodpecker 01o - Early Morning Eco Pond - Cardinal
Red Shoulder Hawk
02 Red Shouldered Hawk
Pine Warbler                                               Gray Catbird
01k - Early Morning Eco Pond - Pine Warbler01l - Early Morning Eco Pond - Gray Catbird
Painted Bunting
01h - Early Morning Eco Pond - Painted Bunting
I know I will be returning to Eco Pond most mornings!!!
When Nancy got back, we ate breakfast, packed our lunch and drove to
the Noble Hammock Kayak Trail launch.04a - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - Put In
We weren’t the first to arrive and one of those cars belongs to Sherry and David!!
We had been given rave reviews about this kayak trail. 
 Since we have an inflatable kayak,
we need to be a little more concerned about possible obstacles and low water levels. 
Before we decided to do this kayak,
we check with the park ranger and he assured us we would be fine ;o)
The launch and first channel were a little narrow;o((
04b - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - Put In 04c - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - Paddle to Marker 1
Then things opened up :o))
04f - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - opened up again
Marker #4 was a little tight;o(
  04e - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - marker 4 a little narrow
Then the water level started going down;o((04g - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - shallow and grassy
It got narrower and shallower;o(((
04i - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - and narrower  04h - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - narrower
At marker 21, we decided to call it quits and turn around.04j - Noble Hammock Canoe Trail - turned around and heading back
Just not worth taking any chances in the middle of The EVERGLADES!!!
Later when we talked to Sherry and David, who had kayaked the entire trail in hard kayaks.  They said there were over 100 markers and we had made a good decision to turn around.  It just got more narrow and more shallow towards the end!!  Sometimes, you just can’t go everywhere with an inflatable kayak!  You can read about their kayak trip here.
Once we got back to the launch point and packed up the kayak,
we decided to check out a few other points along the road.
10 - Flamingo Area Trail Map
I knew this map would come in handy!!
We have signed up for a free Ranger-led canoe trip at Nine Mile Pond.  We drove there so we would know just how long it will take since we have to be there just after 7am.  We will share lots of photos of that trip later.  Today, we just enjoyed our lunch and watched a few birds;o)
These Crows were very entertaining!!
05 - Nine Mile Pond for Lunch
Caspian Tern                                                              Pied-Billed Grebe
05d - Nine Mile Pond for Lunch -  Caspian Tern  05g3 - Nine Mile Pond for Lunch -  Pied-Billed Grebe
After lunch, we stopped at West Lake where there is a boardwalk trail and a canoe trail.
We opted for the boardwalk trail this time;o))
 06c - West Lake Trail - trail sign06d - West Lake Trail - Boardwalk
It was a beautiful boardwalk through the Mangroves with lovely Bromeliads everywhere.
06e - West Lake Trail - Bromelaide06e2 - West Lake Trail - Bromelaide
When you visit the Everglades, you WILL learn about Mangroves!!!
06e2 - West Lake Trail - Types of Mangroves Sign
We finally reached West Lake and had a view of new Mangrove Islands
 just starting to form!!
06i - West Lake Trail - Boardwalk over lake 06j - West Lake Trail - Red Mangroves
Mangroves are really hardy!! 
Their roots are in salt water and are covered with barnacles…amazing!!!06j3 - West Lake Trail - Red Mangroves Barnecles
There was so much sea foam that it looked like the mangroves were in SNOW;o))
06j4 - West Lake Trail - Red Mangroves in Sea Foam
Next stop
 07 - Mrazek Pond Sign
This lovely pond sits right next to the road and is a favorite early morning birding spot!!07a - Mrazek Pond Birds
Just across the road is Coot Bay Pond.
08a - Coot Bay Pond 
What a lovely pond!! 
We may have to return to kayak this one:o))
Even when plans didn’t go as planned, we still had a fantastic day!!!