We were on our way to the Visitor Center when we stopped by The Big Cypress Gallery of Clyde Butcher. My last post was about that visit and in it I promised to do another on our later time at the Visitor Center.
Becasue we’ve been to Big Cypress several times, we didn’t go to the VC the very first day we arrived. That turned out to be a mistake as we had forgotten that you must make reservations for both the Swamp Walk and the 8 hour once a month Big Tree Walk. The latter is this Saturday and we aren’t able to go. LESSON LEARNED!
But we are able to see their excellent film which is a shortened version of one by Elam Stoltzfus with Clyde Butcher as host.. The full documentary entitled Big Cypress Swamp: The Western Everglades is 57 minutes this is a 25 minute version of it. It is really excellent but I wish they also offered the complete version for those of us who would like to see it.
After the film we head out to the canal boardwalk to see who is about in the deeper than usual water. A sign by the boardwalk says that nearly 60 inches of rain falls here annually during the summer wet season. That’s five feet of rain in one season. But this year the summer didn’t provide that rain. However this winter is unusually rainy. Is this cycle of wet and dry in Florida changing as a result of the climate chaos? And if so, what will that mean to the plants and animals here and to their feeding and mating cycles?
On the canal is this female anhinga with her tail feathers spread for swimming. I had no idea that they swam with those feathers spread but the water is so clear, we can see her swimming underwater. It’s very exciting. I’ve never seen them swimming from such a close vantage point.
Below the water
Can you see the great blue heron hunkered down on the far side of the canal? He almost looks like a different bird in this posture.
Also in the canal are these eyes.
We also see these eyes. Do you know whose they are??
The Florida Softshelled turtle has that long snorkel type nose.
Finished swimming, the anhinga spreds her wings to dry.
I had no idea the Florida Gar was such a beautiful fish.
More gators. This one looks like he’s had a satisfying meal.
Also in the water is this cormorant. They are often confused with the anhinga but as you can see, they are easy to tell apart by both their feather patterns and their bills.
More gators. They are what everyone on the boardwalk is looking for. Can you see that the one furthest up the bank has his mouth open.
So have you ever seen an alligator tongue? Look closely.
Why do they lay around with their mouths open I wanted to know. And what I found is that no one knows for sure. They don’t just do it when they are in the sun which might mean it is a cooling mechanism. They also do it when it is raining and at night. David speculates they are simply hoping someone will walk in. HA!
This is clearly the winter for the tri-colored heron. We have seen more of them this season than ever before. They too look a lot different in their hunkered down posture than when they are standing up tall.
Each time we come to the boardwalk, high water or low, there are lots of local residents to watch.
Just in case you are planning a trip to Big Cypress, I’ll leave you with some new ideas of things we haven’t done in the area that we discovered at the visitor center for our next visit.
Along with this picture of the Seminole Village that was in Royal Palm Hammock in the 1920’s we found a map to two local sites where we can learn more about the Native Americans of the Big Cypress and Everglades areas.
In addition to the Native American village and museum and Shark Valley and Clyde Butcher’s Studio, we can recommend from our past trips to Big Cypress visitng the HP Williams Wildlife Viewing Area, hiking the Kirby Storter Boardwalk, hiking the Gator Hook Trail and kayaking the Turner River Canoe Trail.
Another thing we’ve done which we’re going to repeat while we are here this time is driving the 24 mile loop at Monroe Center. When it’s 84 degrees in the swamp, sometimes it’s better not to be on a long hike but rather to stop along the way and do several short ones.
Along this loop is the beginning, Mile zero, of the 1400 mile Florida National Scenic Trail. I wonder if anyone has ever walked this whole thing in sections?
Over 40 miles of the Florida Scenic Trail, which are often covered in water, wind through the Big Cypress National Preserve. Now I love to swamp walk but 40 miles is too much for me although we have done shorter stretches of swamp walking here and stretches of the Florida Scenic Trail in several other parts of the state.
In terms of walking in the swamp though, we really do recommend it and have done it both times we’ve been here before.
Here are links to those posts from 2013 and 2014 in case you’d like to swamp walk virtually. Feel free to leave a comment there too if you like.