Sunday, July 4, 2010

Any Given Sunday

Woodstork along Pahayokee in Everglades National Park

When we go exploring in the Everglades, normally my friends and I look on a satellite map and find a cypress dome or slough that looks interesting, then we start walking. This last weekend set our sights on a particularly large cypress dome in the middle of Shark Slough. Unfortunately, this dome was about a 3-mile walk from the road. Parking the car, we took a bearing and started trudging through the mix of submerged limestone, thick sediment, sawgrass, and ankle-high water. Twenty minutes later, we had only gone a quarter of a mile. No one wanted to admit it, but we were all ready to turn around. Luckily, a massive lightning storm rolled overhead, rescuing our floundering prides. We turned back promptly and decided that we could find other places to explore. 

Downpour over the sawgrass prairie and dwarf cypress

The storm passed over us while we sat under a covered tower to watch the exposed landscape receive the rains. Once we got back in the car and looked at the map again, we realized that we were going nowhere near cypress domes. Our orienteering was fine, but we interpreted the map completely wrong. Had we walked the three miles we would have arrived exhausted only to find a dense hardwood hammock that we wouldn’t have been able to penetrate.

Tillandsia and pond cypress during a light drizzle

Rain in the cypress dome

Feeling like we dodged a major bullet, we settled on a much more accessible dome and trudged through the warm heavy water under intermittent showers. The tillandsias and orchids received the rain with rich reds and greens.

Adam Vila paddles close to a bottlenose dolphin in the mud flats

Roseate spoonbills preen in the shallows

A reddish egret wards off a great egret

Towards the end of the day, we paddled out to Snake Bight hoping to catch the last rays of light while the skimmers and spoonbills foraged in the shallows.

A blackneck stilt pulls up algae and grass to fortify its nest

Blackneck stilt eggs on the mud flats of Snake Bight

This time of year, shorebirds are building their nests before the hurricanes have a chance to flood the coast with ripping tides.

Garl Harrold from Coastal Kayaking

Just as we were leaving, an enormous rain cloud pulled in moisture from all directions and released its weight above one of the mangrove islands. I’ve never seen such a graphic storm cloud.

Rain cloud over Snake Bight

With the way the day had progressed, it seems that on any given Sunday in the Everglades, with the right eyes, there's no end to the spectacles of mother nature. 

White ibis fly by a cumulous cloud as the sun sets

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