Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Day Trip to the Everglades....

Every once in awhile, Sparky and Eldo get restless...we miss the traveling, RVing lifestyle, but hey....we are now off the road and that's where we are at this stage in our in Bradenton, FL, Eldy's golfing, Sparky is subbing, and the weather is relentless sunshine and plenty of warmth and heat for our old bones....Sparky still misses cooler weather and the change of the seasons, but that's where we can travel occasionally in the summer to get out of the heat....

female anhinga
Now, a trip to the Everglades in December is not getting out of the heat, but it's fun! It reminds us of the very first time traveling to southwest Florida, going down highway 41, Tamiami Trail to the Everglades...Back then, we visited Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary (north of Fort Myers) and saw our very first anhinga, a very common Florida bird with fantastic black and silver plumage. Sparky remembers seeing an anhinga drying its wings on a branch in Corkscrew Swamp, and saying to Eldy, "WHAT THE HECK IS THAT BIRD????" It was SO BIG compared to birds up north....  The first time we visited the Everglades, on the way down, we would watch the side ditches filled with water because the bushes and shrubs hadn't grown up yet, and there would be alligator after alligator after alligator sunning themselves along the banks. We stopped a BUNCH of times, because you know how Sparky LOVES to take photos. And, there were TONS of egrets, herons, and anhingas in the trees. We were AMAZED!

This week we took a day trip back to our favorite stopping points along the way to the Everglades....the Big Cypress Visitor's Center, (the manatees start to hang out there in the winter), the U.S. smallest post office in Ochopee, FL....a 7 X 8ft. building...It used to be an irrigation shed for a tomato farm. It is at milepost 72, on highway 41 and worth a stop. Get a pre stamped postcard from the smallest post office in the U.S.! Population of Ochopee is about 11 people or so....

We stopped at the HP Williams Wayside Park, another great place to talk to a ranger or naturalist and look for gators and birds....There was a BIG gator under the boardwalk, but Sparky is now sort of "meh" about gators, she sees them ALL the time in Sarasota and Bradenton....But they ARE bigger in the Everglades, she will say that! :-) We saw Florida gar and bowfin fish in the water...the gators didn't seem to care about the fish at all...guess they weren't hungry!
bowfin fish
Sparky saw the usual anhingas and gators....But then, in the underbrush, across the water canal, she saw a little green heron...his colors were terrific! The green herons are also known as chuckleheads, or little green herons. They like to stay hidden in swampy thickets, which is exactly where Sparky saw him. They are about one to two feet in length, so not very big birds compared to other FL birds like the white herons, wood storks and great blue herons....

As we came out of HP Williams Wayside Park, we saw an alligator that had been hit by a car, mangled in the road, the first time we have ever seen alligator road kill here in FL. You'd think we see that more often, but guess there are plenty of fences around to prevent that from happening. Too bad they can't help keep the panthers fenced in down near the Everglades, because a record number of panthers continue to be hit by cars, increasing in numbers every year. There were 26 panthers killed by cars in 2015, and the last number we saw in the newspaper for 2016, was over 30. :-(  They won't be around much longer if this keeps up!

One thing we were happy to see as well, at the different visitors' centers, was this.....

On to the Oasis Center in Big Cypress Preserve, between Miami and Naples, THE best place for viewing VERY large alligators, some as big as 12 feet! That one, the 12 footer, was not in the canal the day we went, but we did see some biggies....Sparky loves taking closeup photos from the boardwalk, where it's nice and safe to do so. The last time we were there, Sparky saw a young limpkin taking a nap in a tree, and a little green heron walking the swamp edge below the boardwalk..Today it was big gators snoozing, big soft shell turtles sunning, alligators swimming, just a beautiful day to be out and about...Temps in the low eighties by mid afternoon with a nice breeze....There's a ranger or naturalist here as well, to answer your questions
Gator claw
Sparky wanted to head down to Shark Valley National Park to do the long bike ride, but it was getting later in the afternoon, and so we decided to head back to Bradenton. Lots of Christmas and Etsy preparations to still take care of.... We hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, wherever you are...Sparky's tee says, "let it snow"...But we know, it ain't gonna happen in Bradenton...Last record cold temperature was 28 degrees in 1983,  on Dec. 25-26th or something like that...That will never happen again! (Sparky needs to go to one of those fake snow events they have every so often down here so she can pretend to be a kid again, says E..... ) Send photos of snow, folks, that helps!
Sparky, blog author
Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays 2016 from beautiful Bradenton to all our friends and family...May the coming year bring you peace, love, joy, and good health....

                                                                    Sparky and Eldo



  1. Merry Christmas to you as well. Thanks for the Everglades trip.

  2. Merry Christmas to You, Eldo and all your family.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  3. Merry Christmas to you both! Loving your pictures :-)

  4. Merry Christmas to you both. If you'll be at the Tampa Super Show perhaps we can at least say HI!

  5. was thinking of your just yesterday, and then for some reason this blog post notice popped up on my email this morning. . .how fortuitous, considering you wrote it a month ago.

    I chuckled at your "meh" for the alligators. After about our third month in Estes Park, I remember thinking "meh" about the elk. Always fun to get out and about. Glad you did!