Alligators and Others--The Everglades cont.


The Shark Valley Entrance to Everglades National Park has several possible ways to explore the park. You can rent a bicycle and presumably bicycle around the tram trail and other open trails--I don't know how many there might be. But for our first exposure we opted from the tram-trail to the observation tower. After purchasing tickets, we had a few minutes to spare and we spent them looking at the nearby canal and watching the alligators swim.

Note, this is a park. Not a theme park--a real park. Between us and the alligators there is no barrier. The alligator in the canal could just as easily have crawled up and sunned itself in the middle of the tram-trail.

How magnificent to see one of these animals in the wild. We've all seen them, probably in zoos, in attractions, or on television, but for reasons I cannot explain because I don't understand them well myself, the experience of just watching an alligator swim through the murky, tea-like water of the canal while the gar and other fish scatter before it is fascinating and strangely thrilling. You are first aware of its approach because the mullet start leaping out of the water and making little surface splashes in their panic to get away. (At least I think they were mullet.) Then you see the long black body that moves with an imperceptible motion of the tail--a slick gliding predator, cutting through the water on its way to. . . who knows where.

Turns out that alligators in the wild do not eat all that often. They can go for as much as a month between big meals so while the mullet are panicking, the alligator is just enjoying a warm winter afternoon in the water.

In the branches of the trees above the water where the alligator swam two blue heron and seemingly countless female anhingas. The ranger shared a story about anhinga mating practices--The male anhinga presents to the prospective mate a stick or a twig that he has collected. If the female likes the stick, the two form a mating pair and build a nest together. If she does not she is as likely as not to hit the male with the stick and chase him off. Later in the day Samuel witnessed two anhinga squawking at one another and he said matter-of-factly, "She must not have liked the stick." I never fail to be amazed by what and how much little sponges absorb.

Soon enough we were aboard the tram and on the way to the observation tower seven and a half miles, or so, into the the river of grass.

More later--you know, I love reliving the moment in these brief writings because I'm forced back to the day and to how wonderful it all was. We visited in perfect conditions, of course, but I'm not sure that that has all that much bearing on the matter.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 11, 2007 12:05 PM.

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