During our five months at Lake Woodruff NWR we didn’t sit still, but our RV moving skills did get a bit rusty. When it came time to get back on the road, it took a bit of getting reacquainted with our moving routine. But like riding a bicycle, once you have the basics ingrained, it all came right back.
|site at Big Cypress RV Resort|
Our first overnight was at the fairly remote Big Cypress RV Resort near Clewiston, FL in the Seminole Indian Reservation. Not a terribly remarkable stop but it did put us within easy striking distance of Stormwater Treatment Area 5 (STA5), a good place to search for a Purple Swamphen.
|site at Miami Everglades Resort|
Case in point, take the recent splitting of the Clapper Rail into three separate ABA species: Mangrove Rail (Rallus longirostris), Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus obsoletus), and Clapper Rail (Rallus crepitans). Because we had kept track of sighting Rallus obsoletus more than once in southern California (1998 and again in 2011), it meant that without ever stepping foot outside our RV, that we added another life bird when the ABA split the Clapper Rail in 2014. Lesson learned: keep track of subspecies sightings of all birds.
As for exotics in Florida, there are several small populations of escaped parakeets, parrots, and macaws. Most are not countable. At least not yet. These include Yellow-chevroned Parakeet, Black-hooded Parakeet, Blue-crowned Parakeet, Mitred Parakeet, Scarlet-fronted Parakeet, Red-masked Parakeet, Crimson-fronted Parakeet, White-eyed Parakeet, Lilac-crowned Parakeet, Chestnut-fronted Macaw, Blue-and-yellow Macaw, White-fronted Parrot, Orange-winged Parrot, Scaly-headed Parrot, Yellow-crowned Parrot, Yellow-headed Parrot, and Mealy Parrot. Quite a handful. As it turns out, many would not be life bird sightings for us because we've seen them in other countries. But, if the ABA ever lists any of these as countable, well, it would behoove us to see as many of these “pocket” birds as possible so that we might cash in on adding them later.
But exotics aren’t the only draw. Florida has become home to a number of species that have arrived and stayed from other parts of the world without human interference. Several are West Indian vagrants that make an occasional appearance. Black Noddy, La Sagra’s Flycatcher, Yellow-faced Grassquit, and Cuban Pewee are but a few that have graced southeast Florida with fleeting visits. To see them pretty much relates to being in the right place, at the right. Like the La Sagra’s Flycatcher we found when we last visited Miami in February of this year.
Now some people with deep pockets and with unlimited means at their disposal, can afford to chase birds whenever or wherever they may appear. We are definitely not in that category. On our shoe string RV budget, we have to plan far further ahead and simply be aware and ready for when a rare bird makes an appearance near us. Like we said - right place, right time.
Close to Miami we scoured Matheson Hammock Park (we were here the day we were departing on our Ecuador birding trip), the Baptist Hospital grounds, and Larry and Penny Thompson Park.
|boardwalk at Everglades Anhinga Trail (with Double-crested Cormorant)|
|Everglades Flamingo Visitor Center complex (great place for Shiny Cowbird)|
|view from the visitor center|
By in large we had done fairly well checking off more “pocket bird” species, plus we added a few southeast Florida ABA specialties we had missed on earlier visits (like Shiny Cowbird). One interesting observance occurred that involved bird behavior while we visited the Anhinga Trail/Gumbo Limbo Trail in Everglades NP. When we arrived at the parking lot we saw several vehicles covered with large blue plastic tarps…and a large number of vultures sitting atop vehicles. Apparently, the vultures had become accustomed to tearing off the rubber molding around windshields, sunroofs, and rubber windshield wiper blades, hence the need to cover vehicles. The park supplied the tarps free of charge. We chanced that parking away from the main parking area where several vehicles (and vultures) were clustered, might reduce a vehicular attack. But to be on the safe side, we also borrowed a tarp and bungees to cover the top of the truck just in case. By mid morning as the day heated up and thermals for the vultures began to build, the vultures departed. And we were pleased to still have functioning windshield wipers.
|Red-shouldered Hawk atop the visitor center|
The main attraction for most visitors at Shark Valley has nothing at all to do with sharks. Or a noticeable valley. Flat as a pancake. Why shark? The Shark Valley Slough empties into the Shark River which in turn is where Bull Sharks, able to survive in brackish water, come to breed. Are there sharks at Shark Valley? No - the water is too shallow. Lots of alligators, though.
The name "Valley" is also a stretch. On the Atlatic side is the "Atlantic Ridge", 18-20 feet above sea level. The Naples Plateau, also 18-20 feet in height is on the opposite side of Florida. In between, (Shark Valley and most of south Florida) the height is approximately 7-8 feet above sea level. So yes, technically speaking, Shark Valley is in a valley. Not by Swiss standards but a valley nonetheless. Pity the poor Europeans who visit with visions of sharks and valleys. How about Alligator Alley?
But Shark Valley does have a magnificent representation of saw grass prairie and offers a interpretive tram tour. Visitors may also rent a bicycle (or bring their own) and cycle the route. Due to time constraints, we opted to hike a short distance of the tram route along a Shark Valley Slough.
|male Anhinga, breeding plummage|
|our site in Midway Campground - quite and spacious|
|the length of this rig/trailer is illegal in several states|
|Carol and Lisa|
You may recall that while we were at LWNRW we met Lisa Andrews, the education coordinator for Big Cypress National Preserve. Lisa had offered that “if we were ever in her neck of the woods”, to look her up and she’d show us around. So we did. And true to her word, Lisa loaded us into a Big Cypress NP vehicle at the Welcome Center and spent an entire day chaperoning us around some of the more inaccessible areas. Deep Lake Fire Station, Fire Prairie Trail, and scenic drives including: Upper Wagonwheel Road, Birdon Road, and Turner River Road. We hiked an area where Florida Panther are known to frequent. Alas, no panther sightings but we did find fresh scat and tracks. And maybe that was as close as we wanted to be…
|area where Carol saved Lisa from stepping on a cottonmouth|
|Carol and Lisa look a bit distracted due to several alligators swimming their way|
|Kirby Storter Park|
|immature Black-crowned Night-Heron|
|Barred Owl that landed next to us on boardwalk railing|