Sunrise, Dolphins, Painted Buntings, Raptors, & Sunset - Flamingo Area - Everglades National Park - Florida
The Flamingo area of Everglades National Park is for fishermen, birders, nature lovers, photographers, and those that just like being away from the hustle and bustle of "civilization". This was the first full day of our second visit to this special place.
The Flamingo area of Everglades National Park is one of my favorite places in the U.S. It's a pocket of nature 38 miles from from the main park visitor center at the end of the only access road and, for most tourists, it's not worth the effort. As a ranger said last time we were here in 2011, "It takes special people to come all the way to Flamingo and spend some time."
I love it for the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets over the Florida Bay, the beautiful birds, and the opportunity to see alligators, crocodiles, manatees, and dolphins. I love the laid-back pace, and the feeling of being in the middle of nowhere while only 50 miles from civilization and 80 miles from Miami.
We arrived here yesterday, and though our life is care-free, I immediately felt my chest expand knowing that my soul was about to be re-nourished. And after my mother's passing a month prior, I needed it.
This morning, I got up at 6:00 a.m. to go watch the sunrise. Linda decided to stay snuggled up in bed as she usually does when it comes to sunrises.
Florida Bay was dead calm when I arrived at the Flamingo visitor center and café. I have learned the best Flamingo sunrises are photographed from there.
A single dolphin came into the cove while I sat by myself in the pre-dawn darkness.
I sat and watched the morning come alive as the birds started flying in from their roosting grounds, fish splashed in front of me, and the fishermen headed out into the bay.
I was sitting at a picnic table, and this gull decided I must be eating something and, therefore, there must be some scraps to be had.
Finally, the sun made its appearance on the horizon.
Another dolphin arrived and entertained me with a few jumps.
I love this photo with the bird and the leaping dolphin.
Later, Linda's Mom did a painting for us from that photo, and we display it proudly.
As the sun continued to climb, more dolphins arrived and began feeding right in front of me.
What a fantastic start to the day.
Eventually, I left and headed over to Eco Pond near the campground. A few birders were already there, and a couple pointed out a gorgeous Painted Bunting.
It was the longest, best look I've ever had at one of these beauties, and I took advantage of the opportunity.
I only wish my Mom could enjoy the photos. She always got so excited on the rare occasions when one of these flying color palettes would come to her feeders. That was my sadness moment for the day.
My next treat was seeing the lovely green female Painted Bunting and being able to get the pair in a few shots together.
To get such a great look at both these birds made me quite happy.
While watching the buntings, there were also cardinals, catbirds, vireos, woodpeckers, gnatcatchers, and this Black & White Warbler.
At the edge of the pond, there was a Great Egret, a Roseate Spoonbill, a Reddish Egret, and a couple of White Ibis feeding across the way.
And I zoomed in on this Red-shouldered Hawk as it came in for a landing.
After some morning chores, late in the afternoon, we rode our bikes over to Eco Pond for a quick look. A hawk flew in and landed in the tree right above us.
Other than that, we didn't see much on that visit.
However, on the road to the beach-side tent camping area, there is a large Osprey nest and while one bird was sitting on the nest, the other was on a branch in the same tree eating a fish.
The fish-eater had decapitated its dinner and posed proudly with it.
Here's a little video of the nest and fish-eating process.
It was starting to cool off, so we rode back to our campsite, where I relaxed until it was time to go watch the sunset.
I rode my bike over to the beachfront camping area, and waited.
I noticed some birds in the surf and went over to get some shots. They were Black Skimmers.
They have a black and bright orange bill, and the lower mandible is significantly longer than the upper which works great as they fly just above the water "skimming" for food as they fly.
I turned my attention back to the sunset ....
and a camper joined me out on the beach. It turns out that he is from Louisville, our home town, and is a full-time boater. He hauls his sailboat across the country and sleeps in it in campgrounds while it is on the trailer. Interesting character.
The sun disappeared over Bradley Key, and the colors were stunning.
It was a wonderful start to this week-long stay at Flamingo.