"Quit hanging on to the handrails... Let go. Surrender. Go for the ride of your life. Do it everyday"

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Florida Everglades Gators and Egrets

The Florida Everglades, called the "river of grass" is a fascinating ecosystem and a very frail one at that.  It is essentially a slow-moving, shallow river that eventually empties out into Florida Bay.  It is a very diverse habitat and the mangroves help to clean pollutants out of the water.  We were lucky enough to be able to drive through the everglades on our way down to the Florida Keys.  As we got further into the everglades I saw multiple signs for airboat tours.  I am a wildlife lover and photographer, so the thought of seeing a wild gator had me very excited.  There was no thought or plan, we just stopped at a random airboat tour place and signed up for a ride. 
Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
These are the mangroves.  It is these plants that help to clean pollutants out of the water and are the favorite habitat of the gators.  The mangroves are some of the neatest looking plants(trees).

Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
Here is more of a close up picture of the mangrove roots.
 
When we first started our airboat tour I was actually kind of surprised by how loud they were.  I thought, surely no gators or wildlife are going to show up around this noisy thing.  The noise is part of the reason why they do not allow airboats in Everglades National Park.  Our guide though assured us that gators were inquisitive creatures of things within their "home" and that the boats didn't bother them too much.  He also told me that most of the time he turned the boat off if he spotted something in the water.  The canals that we drove through were pretty interesting, not very wide at all and marshy land or grasses on either side.
 

Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
 
The canals that we drove through to get to the wildlife areas.
 
One of the first things that I noticed about the evergades was the sheer number of birds around us.  Just tons of them.  It was a bird watchers paradise really and I just kept snapping away with my camera.  The Everglades has something like 350 types of birds living in its habitat, more then anywhere else in the United States AND the greatest concentration of wading birds in North America! 
 


On our airboat tour alone I saw a great blue heron, he was big!  They can be as tall as 4 feet and have a 7 foot wingspan!  I've also seen these guys on our pond in the backyard and have been able to get quite close to that one.  If you go to my Photo Friday post you can see him.  Not so close to these guys.  I also saw several types of egrets, possibly a great and/or a snowy and what they call a Roseate Spoonbill, to name a few.  I couldn't possibly find out all the birds that I saw, it was quite amazing.
 
 Such beautiful birds.  Look at these cool looking pink birds below.  I do not think they are flamingoes, but I suppose they could be.  I couldn't find out exactly what they were.
 

Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
 
As excited as I was to see the birds I was wanting to see gators! After all we were in the Florida evergades and gators are important to see here.  I didn't have to wait too long.  All of a sudden our guide cut the engine and pointed at something.  I, seriously strained to see what he was pointing at, but could not see a darn thing.  I have no idea how he spotted him, at least he told me it was a male.  I have no idea how he knew, but I guess the males will investigate, while the females are not as "friendly".  He told us to wait and then suddenly I could see his snout and a sinuous snake-like movement through the water.  He was coming to check us out!  And come he did!
The guide told us that if you made splashes in the water, he would come to see what they were.  I threatened to throw my son in the water as "bait" haha.  My son was not too keen on that idea although he was practically hanging over the side of the boat to see the gator.  Instead the guide made the boat rock a bit and this guy made a definate beline towards our boat.  See that picture on the far right, that is the edge of our boat and that is the gator.  That is how close he came!  It was totally awesome!!!  I was sooo excited!  Unfortunately not all of us on the tour were as excited and one lady(poor thing) was really nervous and had to move to the other side of the boat.  I believe she thought the gator would lunge at her or something. 
 

Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
Oh yeah I was in photography heaven!
 
This gator had some sort of sty in his eye which made him almost blind in that left eye.  I had seen my gator, I was one happy gal.  We did end up seeing one female on our trip, but she was well hidden in the mangroves and I could only see the top of her head.  I still couldn't tell the difference between male and female, except for the fact that the male grows larger then the female.  Male gators grow to average length of 14 feet although they can get as long as 16 feet and the females are 8-9 feet in length.  Interesting fact - Gators can replace their teeth if they loose them. 

Southeastern United States is one of the few places where you can get gator meat in the U.S. and so while I was there I simply had to try it.  Let me let you in on a secret....
Gator meat is GOOD!  It has it's own unique taste, but it is along the lines of the milder flavor of chicken.  Seriously!  Most seafood and steak has a much stronger flavor, in my opinion.  Next time you are in the area, you definately need to try some of it!
 
One last thing that we did after our fun airboat ride and gator sighting was to stop at the shop where to our delight they had baby gators!!  Even better then that, you could touch and pick up the baby gators!!  My son was now in wildlife heaven and frankly(call me crazy) so was I!  The babies were quite adorable really.  Here is a picture of me enjoying the baby gator. 
 
Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
Isn't he the cutest??
 
Extra bonus we got to see a baby turtle as well.

Floria Everglades Airboat Tour
Sorry for the blurry picture, but can we say adorable?
My love for turtles came about in Hawaii after seeing the sea turtles there.
 
 This little guy was in with the baby alligators.  Poor guy kept getting picked on by thos gators too.  They kept bothering him.  Apparently they had just found this little guy and were in the process of making a home for him so until it was ready he had to stay with the gators.  The guides assured me the baby gators couldn't eat him because they were too little, but I have to admit I was a worried about the little guy.
 
This post is part of R We There Yet Mom Friday Daydreaming and Budget Travelers Sandbox Photo Thursday and also Delicious Baby Photo Friday.  Come on by for more great travel posts! 

Pin It!

27 comments:

  1. Would love to have seen the blue heron and how cool you see them at home as well. I don't think the pink birds are flamingoes, but they are awesome.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah I don't know what the pink birds are. They were very pretty though. It was very neat to see the blue heron at my house and he kept coming back most of the summer. Thanks for stopping by.

      Delete
  2. I can see the allure of baby alligators, but I am afraid I might be like the nervous lady in your boat about the adult ones :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha I think if I wasn't such a shutterbug, photography freak I would be too. But I don't think very well when I'm behind my camera and focused on my goal :). Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  3. What an awesome tour - and great photos! I would love to see the birds but I would be terrified of the alligators!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The gators were very fascinating to me and the birds were just fun to watch. Sooo many of them, if you are a birder at all it is well worth the visit if you get a chance. Thanks and yes the tour was a lot of fun! Thanks for reading.

      Delete
  4. That looks amazing! We went on a swamp tour in Louisiana several years ago. They fed marshmallows! to the alligators. I love all your bird pictures too. I've never been to the Everglades, but I would like to someday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marshmallows!! That sounds crazy! How is that good for the gators haha? A swamp tour would be a lot of fun I think. You should definately make it to the everglades if you can, fascinating habitat. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  5. It's hard to believe that something that looks so ugly could taste almost like chicken. Okay, I know it has nothing to do with looks but....you're quite adventurous to try. One of these days, I'll visit the everglades.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. haha I have to admit that I was a little hesitant at first to try them. But I was so glad I did. I do like to try foods that are unique to an area and/or known so I would have felt like I had missed something if I hadn't. Thanks for stopping by!

      Delete
  6. I've seen gators in the Louisiana bayous and it is soooo fascinating. Still would like to hit the Everglades some day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Louisiana bayous is someplace I would like to visit as well, I haven't been there yet. That has a unique culture as well. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  7. I wonder what that baby turtle thought about being with all the gators. This looks like such a cool outing. I like the deep blue bird among the white ones. Funny story-- A British friend here in Malaysia suggested having a USA theme party. She's serve gator as "typical" American food.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That. is. so. funny! I'm not sure that gator is "typical" in many of the areas of the US, haha. I don't think that turtle was too happy about it, poor thing kept trying to crawl out. Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  8. That blue heron is gorgeous! I have to say, gators always give me the creeps!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! They don't bother me too much :0). I enjoyed all the birds for sure. So many pretty ones! Thanks for reading!

      Delete