Today, after a beautiful sunrise, we did a couple of hikes near the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park. They weren't very exciting, but we were able to get some good wildlife photos on the trails and around the Flamingo complex. Our first American Crocodile was a memorable sight.
It was just getting light at 6:00 a.m. and I wanted to see if I could get some sunrise photos.
I hopped on my bike and rode from the campground across the paved Guy Bradley Trail looking for a spot along the "beach". As it turned out, the best sunrise viewing, at least in this first week of March, is at the visitors center.
Since I got up early to take pictures, you have to endure a few of them.
These fishermen enjoyed the sun coming up with me.
Birds filled the sky and the bay this morning.
Sunrises like that just put me in a great state of mind for the day.
Linda slept in, and after her coffee time, it was sometime after 10:00 before we finally got moving. We stopped by the visitors center and picked up a trail map. I talked to a ranger for a few minutes and decided to do the Snake Bight Trail.
A "bight" is a bay within a bay, and this trail is a 1.8-mile one-way straight walk from the park road to the bight. It's shaded and goes along a small canal.
Therefore, it's wise to be prepared for mosquitoes. We were both covered in repellent, and Linda went a step further.
The mosquitoes were bad in the first part of the trail, and they scared a few people back to their cars. But after that, it was tolerable.
The trail isn't particularly interesting, but we found a few things that caught our eye. Early on, there was an alligator tucked in amongst the Black Mangrove roots.
And there were lots of butterflies like this Julia ....
and this Zebra Longwing, the Florida state butterfly.
We got a good look at some Prairie Warblers.
And we came upon a Black Racer snake crossing the trail.
At the end of the trail is a very short boardwalk and an observation deck.
It was low tide, and although that's supposed to be the best time to see birds, there wasn't much to see at all. There were big flocks on the flats, but they were so far away, the only way to see them was with binoculars or a spotting scope.
Anyway, we had lunch out there before making our leisurely walk back. It was good exercise, but I'm not sure it's a trail worth the walk. Bikes are allowed on the trail, and that might be a better choice. Another option is to combine the Rowdy Bend Trail with the Snake Bight.
Rowdy Bend ends at the Snake Bight Trail and bikes are allowed on both. Using the park road, you can do those trails as part of a bike loop.
Before we returned to the campground, we drove a couple miles on a gravel road to get to the Bear Lake Trail. It was another long, straight trail along a canal much like Snake Bight.
The ranger said we might find an American Crocodile at the lake at the end. That's the only reason we took this 1.6-mile one-way trail.
Well, no crocodile and not much of anything else. I took a picture of this White Ibis since it was about the only thing to photograph.
Oh, we did see another snake. This looks like another Racer, but it was much lighter than the one we saw on Snake Bight. It went up into the trees.
Our recommendation if you come: Skip the Bear Lake Trail unless you just want the exercise from a long walk.
The hiking trails in the Flamingo area are okay, but if wildlife is the objective, hang out at Eco Pond, walk or bike the Guy Bradley Trail, or stick around the visitors center and marina where you might see a crocodile or a manatee and plenty of birds.
For the most "guaranteed" wildlife, walk the Anhinga Trail just a few miles inside the park entrance (about 30 miles from here) or make a point to visit the completely separate Shark Valley section of the park on the Tamiami Trail/Hwy U.S. 41 that connects Miami to Naples on the Gulf Coast.
Linda was worn out after our 8 miles of walking, so she rested when we returned to the campground. I wasn't quite ready to settle down, so I went back out on the bike. Bikes are great to have here for riding the campground loops and going back and forth between the campgrounds and marina/visitors center.
In the large field between Eco Pond and the tent camping section of the campground, I watched a Northern Harrier float and soar near the ground hunting.
On the beach at the tent campground, I found this huge flock of Willets ...
with a few Marbled Godwits mixed in.
I took a little video of the birds on this windy afternoon.
Continuing on down the Guy Bradley Trail, I stopped at the Osprey nest next to the path. Some feeding activity was going on.
In addition to a few photos, I took more video.
I then proceeded to the visitors center ....
and the marina.
This boat is the Seahorse which takes folks out on the Florida Bay Boat Tour a few times a day.
And this one is the Pelican coming back from the backwaters tour.
They were looking at one of the American Crocodiles that hang out behind the marina.
Not a very good picture, but that's a croc. Here's a better one I took earlier.
This area is the only place in the U.S. that you can see American Crocodiles in the wild. The photo above, taken behind the marina, was our very first sighting of a crocodile. See how pointy the snout is? Also, they are a bit lighter color and their toothy grin is different than American Alligators. With as many alligators as we've seen, it's pretty easy for us to tell crocs from gators.
The marina is run by the concessionaire that does the boat tours. They have basic supplies and a gift shop, and as you would expect, they are not cheap. They also rent these skiffs for use in the backwaters.
Like the Keys, in my opinion, the experience at Flamingo is enhanced if you can get out on the water. Next time we are here, I'll be better prepared to get out and do some fishing.
That covers the basic tour of the small, remote Flamingo area.