"" Writer's Wanderings: The Everglades - Anhinga Trail

Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Everglades - Anhinga Trail

One of the most interesting places in the Everglades National Park is the Anhinga Trail. It's not too far into the park (it starts at the Royal Palm Visitor Center) and is mostly a boardwalk that takes you through sawgrass marsh and gives a great view of all sorts of wildlife including the alligators.

As the name suggests, you will see lots of anhingas and in one section, come very close to their nests. The anhinga is mostly a black bird with a beautiful black and white feather pattern on its wings. The difference between the male and female markings is that the female has a silvery head and neck.

Nicknamed the snake bird, the anhinga when swimming often only has its head and neck above water thus looking like a snake. It is easy to confuse in the water with a cormorant which is similar in shape and swims in much the same fashion but is smaller than the anhinga. Both are abundant on the Anhinga trail.

Once the anhinga gets out of the water, it usually finds a spot to roost and then spreads its wings to dry them off. Some of the trees almost look like a line of laundry hanging out to dry.

Baby Anhingas in nest
"Teenaged" Anhingas
We visited twice during our month long stay in south Florida. The visits were almost three weeks apart and when we revisited the nesting area, we were amazed at how much the babies in the nest had grown. I'd call them teenagers on our second visit. They were already venturing out of the nest although not into the water. Thank goodness for that because just below the nest sat a smiling alligator waiting for someone to test their underdeveloped wings.

There were not so many vultures on the second visit and I wondered if maybe the migration north had begun. And a very excited park ranger made sure to point out that there was a roseate spoonbill at the lookout on one end of the trail. We didn't tell her we had seen it a few weeks earlier. This time however, the spoonbill was even pinker than before. It's coloring resembles a flamingo and some tourists (although I don't see how) confuse it with a flamingo. It's legs are not nearly as long and then there's that bill that they use to filter out food bits from the water.

On both visits, we watched the water birds fish and enjoy their catch although we felt sorry for the one cormorant we saw who caught a good sized gar fish and flew off with another bird in pursuit. Unfortunately the catch fell back into the water and neither bird got it. Somehow there must be a lesson on sharing in there.

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