Entrance to the visitor center. The kind man inside let me have the Audubon Society member rate even though I didn't have my card! Figures, I have been carrying it around for a couple years and haven't used it even once and then after I decide to not carry it(after streamlining the wallet), I have the ability to use it and don't have it! UGH! I believe there's a man named Murphy who has a law that applies to this...?
After paying our fee for entry, we began our walk. Just outside they had a lady that had a baby alligator you could pet. I just snapped a picture, I have petted these before and I had also just washed my hands. Being a Florida Native- been there, done that, many times.
Beyond the Alligator lady, there was a marquee that has some recent wildlife sightings. My good friend Kathy and her boys went on this walk with us and they are checking out what we might see from the 2 mile walk on the boardwalk.
We started out the walk with some loud cries that sounded kind-of like a laughing gull. They were the cries of some red-shouldered hawks. It was rather dry and not very birdy, but that is the norm for this time of year. By all means it was teeming with life, just not right out in the open type of stuff. If you go here in the winter-time, you must have time to spare, and stop along the way to be quiet and listen and watch. Only then will you see the goings on around you. We did this alot much to the dismay of Z-man and The Rocket, who accompanied me this time. It caused us to loose our friends along the way as her boys were more interested in barreling through. They are young, and kudos to Kathy for introducing them to the area and letting them explore it at their own pace(key to their enjoyment and retention of knowledge)!
My escorts on this journey.
Scenery along the way:
A small garter snake, sunning on the boardwalk.
I caught him also as he slithered off into the brush. He evidently didn't like his audience even though we were very quiet and didn't crowd him. It was very neat to watch him in the bushes, and how he maneuvered through them, of course it helped that he is not a venomous variety. He was, in fact, rather beautiful with his racing stripes, and serene stillness.
A VERY OLD cypress tree. This thing was huge!
A red-shouldered hawk landed on this snag above the boardwalk.
It was so neat to watch him walking on top of the vegetation. Every once in a while he would step into a hole and stumble, causing him to raise his wings as if in flight.
Cypress tree knees.
Contrary to popular belief(even mine, as I was taught this), cypress knees have little to no bearing on the oxygen exchange of the tree it is connected to, rather, they provide stability in the unstable and mushy landscape for storms with high winds that would otherwise knock over the better part of the forest. All the roots underneath the ground are growing together to form a mesh that provides stability. It would be damn-near impossible to dig a hole in a mature swamp because of this very reason!
The bald cypress trees are bald, they will get their "hats" back in summer.
...and a parting shot. So true, so true.
But you have to experience these things in order to love them and want to conserve them. Get outside and visit your national, state, and local parks with your kids. Unplug them and let them experience what's out there in nature that is ever-changing, entertaining, and imperiled by man if we don't conserve it! If they don't know what they are missing now, how will they when it's gone?