"" Writer's Wanderings: Social Distancing Among The Alligators

Tuesday, January 04, 2022

Social Distancing Among The Alligators

 Three days early for our cruise and plans to visit our kids changed because of COVID, we had to find some things to do that would be safe so that we could pass our COVID test before boarding our cruise ship. Could alligators transmit COVID? Very doubtful. We headed for the Everglades National Park. For us, with a senior pass, it was pretty much a freebie.

We skipped a stop at the Visitor's Center. No indoor activity for us if it could be avoided. We drove to a familiar place, Royal Palm where the Anhinga Trail is and made our way through the turkey vultures who were doing their best to pick at the cars in the lot that weren't covered with a tarp. The park provides tarps for you to cover the top of your car. The vultures like to pick at the rubber. Strange, I always thought they preferred road kill.

There were a few people along the trail but not so many that we felt a mask was needed so we enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine although it was a little cloudy. A mild breeze made it a perfect day. The only thing missing was the alligators and fishing birds.

Usually along the trail that runs next to a watery canal of sorts there are a slew of herons, cranes and other birds wading through the water, stopping to watch for a tasty morsel to swim by and plunging a beak into the water to bring up their breakfast. We could see birds in the distance among the tall grasses but there were none close by. It was a bit disappointing since the "fishing" is fascinating to watch. Someone mentioned that the water might have been a little deep.

No alligators were in the water either. Usually you see at least one or two in the canal but we would not be totally disappointed in the wild life. Midway to the observation decks, was a new kind of interesting show--a turtle that appeared to be laying eggs. She was right up against the pathway and acquiring several onlookers. I tried to get a few pictures and video hoping to capture the moment but we never did see actual eggs although with her undulations it seemed she was trying hard. 

When it began to get a bit more crowded, we moved on. Still no alligators were spotted. We got to the first observation deck where there are usually a dozen laying in the shallow grassy area. Nothing. We moved on.

Finally at the second observation area, we spotted one alligator near the base of a tree just hanging at the surface. But as we strained to see the alligator, we noticed another turtle swimming under the water near the boardwalk where we stood--much bigger than the momma who was trying to lay eggs.

A cormorant sat in a treetop out in the middle of the pond of water. The trees in the past have been filled with anhingas and it's always amazing to see them spread their wings to dry off after they've been diving for dinner. Nothing like that today.

We did spot one more alligator in the tall grasses as we made our way back to the main trail but he was pretty well hidden. Bob saw him as I was busy trying to get a shot of a beautiful dragonfly that had landed on a reed of grass near me. My camera kept having trouble focusing on the dragonfly rather than the background and when I finally got one picture I thought would do, I moved on and tried to see the alligator he pointed out to me. 

As we hit the main trail again, we backtracked to where the turtle was still working on whatever she was trying to do. I figure she was either trying to dig a hole for the eggs or had laid them and was trying to cover them over. About the time we arrived, the turtle was giving up. She took a few steps toward the path, turned and disappeared into the canal. I took a look at where she'd been but there was no evidence of any eggs and I'm guessing she found the

ground too hard to dig and went off to find an easier patch of soil.

On the way back to the car, I stopped quick when I saw another chance to capture a picture of the beautiful dragonfly. This time was successful!

We drove the 30 miles out to the other end of the park called Flamingo and were relieved to find a food truck there so we could catch some lunch. While we walked, a hawk flew over our heads and smacked into a wall of dried palm branches that were hanging down. His wings were spread out and for a moment I thought he had knocked himself out. He appeared to slide down a bit before he recovered and flew to a nearby tree. He perched there long enough to pose for some great pictures.

Our few stops on the way back did not lend any more unusual sightings but all in all, we had had a wonderful day even without many alligator sightings. Guess they were socially distancing. 

So keep in mind if you visit the Everglades, it's not just about the alligators. There is a lot of other wildlife to see.

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