Everglades Bike Ride: The Rest of the Story

As we’re waiting for the cold front to blow itself out, maybe it was a crazy idea to ride bikes for the 15 mile loop at Shark Valley, Everglades Nat’l Park.  But it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Until I heard a tram driver refer to us as “Meals on Wheels”?  What?

Then shortly thereafter, less than a half mile into a 15 mile ride, a BIG gator was blocking the road.  We waited and wondered if he was going to take a nap sunning himself on the asphalt path when finally he decided to lumber on across.  There were gators everywhere along the path and they definitely did not look friendly to me and most were not asleep either.

The path just after we waited on the gator and just before the ill-fated turtle photo.

The path just after we waited on the gator and just before the ill-fated turtle photo.

If you missed my ill-fated turtle photo and violent scene that resulted, click here for yesterday’s post:  Gator Eats Turtle.  After the turtle scene, I couldn’t bring myself to stop peddling as fast as I could, despite David’s ongoing tour guide commentary … you’re missing all the giant alligators, slow down!  Once we arrived at the observation tower, my heart finally stopped pounding and I was able to enjoy the view.

Who's ever seen an anhinga (huge bird) actually swimming under water?  Wow!

Who’s ever seen an anhinga (huge bird) actually swimming under water? Wow!

We immediately noticed an anhinga swimming under water in the creek below us.  Yes, the brown objects in the murky water are fish and this anhinga’s looking to spear one with his sharp beak.  We didn’t actually get to see him get a fish though…

We did get to see gators galore swimming - we were amazed at how quickly they swim and how streamlined they are gliding after each stroke.

We did get to see gators galore swimming – we were amazed at how quickly they swim and how streamlined they are gliding after each stroke.

The 8 miles back from the observation tower were through sawgrass and swamp, but much easier to see the fewer gators and the birdlife was amazing!

A Tri-Color Heron stalking his prey.

A Tri-Color Heron stalking his prey.

Lots of Wood Storks, hard to imagine they're endangered here.  They aren't pretty, except in flight amazingly enough.

Lots of Wood Storks, hard to imagine they’re endangered here. They aren’t pretty, except in flight amazingly enough.

The Great Egrets are in full plume breeding season - the wind was blowing the plumes which were so graceful.

The Great Egrets are in full plume breeding season – the wind was blowing the plumes which were so graceful.

The crowning joy for me was watching this Roseate Spoonbill stalking prey.  It was enjoying a feast and I must have taken 20 photos, but I'll spare you & only post my favorite.

The crowning joy for me was watching this Roseate Spoonbill stalking prey. It was enjoying a feast and I must have taken 20 photos, but I’ll spare you & only post my favorite.

Who is this guy?  At first we thought he might have been a juvenile wood stork, but as it turns out he's a Limpkin, which I haven't seen since Lamanai, Belize in  January 2005.

Who is this guy? At first we thought he might have been a juvenile wood stork, but as it turns out he’s a Limpkin, which I haven’t seen since Lamanai, Belize in January 2005.

Glad to see fewer gators so I could enjoy the ride back along with some rarely seen birds!  The Limpkin was feasting on little oysters or clams and it was cool to see him find out, then bring it up and crack it open with his beak.  Very fun day – except for the parts I was frightened and hyperventilating, sure I was going to have heart failure from my heart pounding so much.

I love my bird identification book – Field Guide to Birds by Stokes – it helped me identify the few birds I didn’t already know – like the Limpkin, the Black Crowned Night Heron (not pictured), and lots of smaller herons and even a new species of Ibis I hadn’t seen before.  One of the best $15 I ever spent – mine is the Eastern Region, but there are other regions and there’s a 2013 new version out, but I’ll probably keep my original.

If you want to do this ride, be sure to arrive eariier than we did (we started at 1:30 for a 15 mile flat bike ride & I thought there was plenty of time before the bikes had to be back at 5 PM.  Turned out, we would have lingered in many places to watch the birds feed, anhingas swim, even the gators swim (from the observation tower, NOT along the side of the path, but we were afraid we wouldn’t get back in time.  We made it with time to spare, but if you’re into getting off & watching nature, I’d recommend allowing 4 hours for this adventure.  I could have stayed at the observation tower watching all the critters interact for a lot longer than we did.  ENJOY and I hope you don’t have to see a gator crunch a turtle, it’s just scary!

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