Spring Break in the Sunshine State

“There are no other Everglades in the world. ”

-Marjory Stoneman Douglas

Most spring breakers head to Florida’s white-sand beaches to collect stupidity, lovers, and hangovers. But I was here, in the southern extremes of the Sunshine State, to collected birds, alligators, and journal pages.

I had been drawn to Florida at an early age while looking through a book about endangered animals. I had always loved animals but the concept that they could be endangered was new to me. The Florida Panther, American alligator  and the Everglades kite were from the state that presented a continuing threat to their existence and as an adult I wanted to see them before they disappeared for good. And I wanted to see the Everglades before it was completely covered in water.

My first impressions of Florida where driving through the concrete jungle from Miami International to my hotel in Homestead. According to the FBI, Homestead is the sixth most dangerous city in Florida, but it ranks number one when it comes to violent crime. It proves that the most dangerous animals in Southern Florida are not Alligators, venomous snakes, or mosquitoes, but Homo sapiens.

It was nice to leave behind Homestead and the gun shops and strip clubs and enter the fabled Everglades National Park. I picked up three life birds just in the parking lot of the visitor’s center. I headed into the park and my first stop was Royal Palms and the Anhinga Trail.

I headed out on the loop trail and true to it’s name there was an anhinga sunning itself with open wings. At the end of the boardwalk were about twenty black vultures perched on the rails. They were certainly not afraid of close human approach and preferred to walk rather than fly away. This called for a sketch. This sketch, featured above, was a very loose drawing of the different postures of the vultures as they preened before their mid-morning foraging over the “Sea of Grass”.

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I had further adventures on my first day in the Everglades, including surprising a four foot eastern diamondback on the Snake Bight Trail, seeing a rare American crocodile, and watching two elegant swallow-tailed kites as they effortlessly rode the thermals. I ended my first day in Florida with 12 life birds.

Over the next few posts I will include pages about some of the 28 life birds I saw over the course of my week in south Florida.

Bird Tower

The observation tower in the middle of the 15 mile bike loop at Shark Valley, the Everglades.

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