The Anhinga Trail on the eastern side of Everglades National Park is a very popular, easily accessible walk. The wildlife is close and used to people. On this visit, there were Anhinga chicks in the nests.
We were staying in Goulds, Florida with a friend, and we made the decision to drive the 20 miles down to the eastern section of Everglades National Park and check it out. It would be our first visit to that area of the park.
We started at the Ernest Coe Visitors Center, where we looked over some of the exhibits and watched the movie about the park, a very good one by the way.
The movie explained how the 1.5-million acre park is divided into three main-eco-systems: the freshwater sawgrass prairies, the brackish water mangrove forests, and the saltwater Florida Bay.
From the Visitors Center, we went through the entrance and paid our fee, then turned left off the main road a few miles in toward Royal Palm. At Royal Palm is one of the most popular trails in the park - the Anhinga Trail.
It's a three quarter mile paved and boardwalk trail. The Anhinga Trail is sort of a like mini-Shark Valley with opportunities to see the typical wildlife up close, but with more people in a concentrated area ...
and fewer animals and less variety simply because it is much smaller (less than a mile as opposed to a 15-mile loop at Shark Valley).
One thing we noticed right away were all the Black Vultures just hanging out by the trail. Very strange.
There was a sign as we entered the parking lot that said "Vultures can cause damage to vehicles". We didn't see any in the parking lot, but they were on the trail like they were in a petting zoo.
We quickly saw the usual gators, herons, egrets, cormorants, and anhingas. The cormorants, like the vultures, were inches off the trail and not afraid of people at all.
We got a nice close-up view of this Wood Stork feeding.
Did you notice how it uses its feet to scare up small fish and other food. It feels for them and clamps shut with its bill. This bird supposedly has the fastest bill in the bird world.
Along the first part of the boardwalk, we looked hard ....
but didn't see anything we hadn't seen before.
Here is a gator on a log with a turtle.
But then in the middle, we noticed several Anhingas nesting and an unusual, constant sound. Ah, the Anhingas have babies and the babies are clamoring to be fed.
It was quite the spectacle and Linda got some of it on video.
Now that we hadn't seen before.
It was mostly the males sitting with the babies and feeding them. When they fed them it looked like the adult birds were trying to swallow the heads of the chicks.
With all the commotion caused by the babies and the adults switching in and out and bringing food, some of the alligators were more active. They were swimming around under the nests waiting for a baby to fall.
Some eggs hadn't hatched yet, while some of the Anhinga chicks were almost full size (upper right of photo below).
They still had their blond coloring, but they were as big as the adults.
As we continued, we saw this cormorant catch a catfish.
Other birds chased it as it swam underwater with the fish until it got away. Once it resurfaced, it swallowed the fish quickly.
Moving on, there were lots of gators at the end of one viewing platforms.
We parted to let this lady in the wheelchair get a closer look.
She was talking to them and told them they wouldn't be interested in her because she was "old and tough".
We spent about an hour on the aptly named Anhinga Trail, mostly watching the activity in the rookery. Then we walked over and did the Gumbo Limbo Trail in the same vicinity.
The Gumbo Limbo Trail is named for the large, red-barked trees all along the way.
And unlike the Anhinga Trail, just a hundred feet away, there wasn't a soul on this trail through the woods. Of course, there wasn't nearly as much to see, either.
So that was our introduction to the eastern side of the Everglades. We weren't all that impressed, but we were looking forward to driving all the way to the end of the road and checking out the very remote Flamingo area.