Thursday, February 19, 2015

A day in the 'glades

This is the post that should have been put up yesterday but we were too tired. Yesterday (Wednesday) the whole family (Jean's son and his family) made an expedition into the Everglades. It was about a two hour drive to the Big Cypress Swamp Indian Reservation. This is a Seminole reservation south and west of Lake Okeechobee. We went to a place called Billie's Swamp Safari. It turns out that Billie is a common surname among this group of Seminoles.

It is a well-laid-out compound that has several animal displays and some activities. We took an air-boat ride, a swamp buggy ride, and caught a show where they brought out a number of animals and talked about them. One of the things that struck me was that they had a lot of animals there that aren't native to south Florida. It is sort of a cross between a wildlife preserve and a zoo. It did have a monster 'gator lying next to a pond.

The day was cooler than usual, so the 'gators weren't moving; just lying there soaking up the sun.

We started out with the air-boat ride. That took us along a flower-choked river and into the cypress swamp. A swamp differs from a marsh (which is what I thought most of the everglades was) in that it has trees growing right in the water.

Air-boats are loud, so they issue ear-plugs. The driver stops and turns off the engine when he has something to say or point out. That is where we saw our first Cape Buffalo, though on dry land outside the swamp area.

When we got back Gene had to get a look at the display of dugout canoes. They were made out of a cedar log and were very narrow. They were poled from a deck in the stern, and the bows were shaped to turn aside the saw-grass, which can cut you if it brushes against you.

Next we attended the animal talk. One of the animals was an alligator snapping turtle. We learned that this particular kind of turtle cannot move its head much, which makes it difficult to catch fish.

Instead, it lies in the water with its mouth open displaying a red lure in its mouth. When a small fish is attracted to it the turtle snaps its mouth shut and catches it.

The show finished with a small (2 1/2 to 3 feet) alligator that people could touch and even hold if they wanted. Of course its mouth was taped shut with duct tape.

Then we took a long ride in a swamp buggy. This was run by the same person who presented the animal show, so we got a lot of information on the animals we saw. This ride took us through a hardwood hammock, a forested area that is above the water level. This is the dry season so we were mostly on dry land, though in the wet season the buggy runs through shallow water much of the way.

On this trip we saw a lot of wildlife, some of it, like the ostrich, imported;

and some, like wild pigs, introduced by the Spanish.

Other bird life included an anhinga,

and a sandhill crane.

 There were many other critters both foreign and domestic, which I wasn't able to get pictures of as we bounced along.

After the Swamp Safari, we spent some time in a good but small Seminole museum. It was almost closing time when we got there so we didn't get to see as much as we would have liked. Maybe we will be able to go back some time.

We ended the day with a dinner to celebrate Hannah's birthday, followed by way too much ice cream. All told a long but interesting day. Today we will spend most of the time relaxing and recovering. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

1 comment:

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