Exploring the Everglades-Is it a Heron or an Egret?

The Everglades is National Park in Florida and is an extensive wetland system filled with a high diversity of animals and plants… it also supplies majority of Florida’s freshwater. It is to the Everglades National Park that I ventured for the day, armed with my mozzie repellent I set off, looking forward to some walking, sightseeing and generally just getting out into nature again. I ventured down what is denoted as “Alligator Alley”, a highway that traverses through the Everglades providing extraordinary scenic views and a general feel for American road trips.

Alligator Alley

I spotted at least 10 alligators just chilling on the side of the road, and many birds which I would like to say were egrets but my companion thought were herons, and so began the great heron/egret debate of 2020. I think in the end I was right… although you may have guessed that seeing as I am the one writing this blog. Anyway, we continued on our journey,  past the hoards of people lined up to go on the Everglades airboats- which are these jet-boat-like contraptions but with a big fan at the back and by the looks of it they pack everyone in like sardines and you set off down the rivers of the Everglades. We bypassed this attraction and instead found a deserted road with which to pull over and try a walk. Unfortunately, I was mildly unprepared shoe wise and had not packed my correct hiking boots, instead donning slip on shoes that I brought because they are comfortable and very practical for long haul flights. This made for a slippery and rather muddy walk that involved more of a tiptoe like motion than a general hike, however, it was worth it. There was not another soul in sight, and it was quiet. The wetland system extended as far as I could see and the only sound was of nearby dragon flies playing or a branch falling into the muddy water below. It was ethereal and it felt like a scene out of a movie. If you passed by too quickly, you’d miss the yellow eyes of the baby alligators lying so still in the muddy water that they are almost invisible. Every tree has a microecosystem attached with moss or lichen growing off it or another plant parasitising it. All the while small lizards creep through and insects make their homes. I could spend hours just sitting in this field watching the little wonders of this place. It is beautiful, it is hot, it is humid, it is muddy…

I break away from the alligator pond and venture further down the muddy trail. I look back to take a photo and I see a red tail hawk sitting behind me on the trail just cleaning its feathers. I tiptoe closer hoping to get a great picture of this beautiful bird but I startle it and it takes off. Not flying away from me as I thought it would but instead it flies straight at me swooping up at the last minute narrowly avoiding my head. I could have reached out and tickled its belly, that’s how close it got. What a magnificent bird and what a beautiful moment. As I turn back to the walking trail in blissful ignorance I entirely forget how muddy it is and how incorrectly I have dressed my feet and sink foot deep in the mud… well there goes that pair of shoes! I thought best to venture forward and not dwell on my muddy foot. After about an hour of walking we decided to make our way back to the car, not because we had had enough of the Everglades but because we had stupidly forgot to bring water with us and being in a hot humid environment without water is not the most fun experience, regardless of how beautiful it is. For the drive home we decided to take the long way, stopping along the road to view the rivers of the Everglades, catching glimpses of fish and birds and meeting people along the way. In particular a couple of friendly bird watchers who must have been pros judging by the size of their camera. We eventually meandered home but not before stopping into a rather off beat looking but definitely cuban vibing cocktail bar and from which we ventured back to the mansion house (I love this house so much!) and ended up in the hot tub sipping on vodka sodas, what a  ife!  As I look around at the afternoon light streaming through the trees I realise I am still on such a high from the news from the Lindau council about the Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany (see my previous blog). I just cannot wait to meet young passionate scientists and I mean, I get to talk to people who have actually won a Nobel prize! I still punch myself every time I remember that I was selected to attend, what a dream come true. It has given me incentive to get cracking on my PhD thesis, it makes me want to get my papers written and start publishing my work. But maybe I’ll start tomorrow… I have a vodka to finish. Oh and by the way it was definitely an egret.. I googled it.

What wikipedia defines as an egret

 

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