Sunday, December 5, 2010

Everglades, Part Two

Fresh water and sea water mix together in the watery wilderness of the Everglades. Yesterday, while in the Everglades National Park, we drove by miles of scrub plants as sawgrass and saw palmetto. It was hard to imagine that there is water under that prairie, until we did some walking on the boardwalks above the grassy water. There really is a marshy underworld in all that scrub brush which is teeming with life, and which provides food for such birds as  herons, egrets, ibises and wood stork.
 Beyond the prairie, in the picture above, you may notice an island of trees.  In the Everglades we saw many of these tree hammocks in which may be found forests of  hardwood trees, pine, or the the royal palm to mention a few of  the varieties. Cypress trees also dot the landscape of the marsh but, in this environment of mostly shallow water, growth of that tree can be quite stunted. They actually appear  dead, but it is the time of the year when their leaves turn color and even fall off.
 We hiked through a mahogany as well as a gumbo limbo tree hammock. The latter tree is quite interesting and one I never seen before. It is also called the "tourist tree"  by Floridians because its bark is red and peeling, same as the tourists who view it!  It ended up to be quite a long drive through the park, but we were determine to see the mangrove estuaries at the southern most tip of the park, which was at Florida Bay. From there we could see the Florida Keys. As I was walking around the marina there, looking for either manatees, or dolphins, I happened to see this young brown pelican who lazily stared at me. Many gulls were also hanging out on the docks, as you may notice in the picture below. They completely covered the dock in the background.
 On our way out of the park we happened to make a couple more stops. At one of those stops we took a short hike into a forest and saw a tree which was labeled as the poisonwood tree. Apparently every part of that tree can cause a bad rash, it is in the poison oak family. Our last stop was at a marsh pond, which was filled with many birds, both in the pond and surrounding it. There I had my first sighting of the roseate spoonbill bird. Two of those beautiful pink birds were perched in trees above the pond. Seeing them sure made a perfect ending to our day in the Everglades.

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