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Make It Snappy
|Monday, 8 March 2004|
|written by Teresa|
Endless acres of tall golden grass ripple and sway as the gentle winds brush across the flatness of the Everglades. Small stands of densely packed trees huddle on the slightly higher ground of the hammocks and the scrubland pines cast long shadows over the Palmettos in the dawn and dusk of the day.
It's over a year since we were last here and down at Flamingo Campground things are a little livelier then on our previous visit when the mosquito-meter was on "Tolerable". This time it's up a notch at "Annoying" and the difference is noticeable. A complete head to toe coating of DEET is required for even the shortest excursion outside and the layers of sweat, sunscreen and chemical amalgamate in the heat to produce that distinctive South Florida perfume. Our exhaled carbon dioxide brings the "skeeters" in from a considerable distance to sit on the fly screens, probosces twitching, drooling in anticipation.
The birds are as numerous and varied as ever. The Ospreys are nesting and within a half-mile radius of the visitors centre at Flamingo, there are five pairs building nests, incubating eggs or feeding young. At Royal Palm the Anhinga are also preoccupied with the business of procreation and where there is any density of nests the alligators wait patiently below, presumably on the off chance of a chick being jostled from the nest by its siblings or attempting a premature maiden flight.
At the Flamingo restaurant Sterling is tempted to place his favorite order: "An alligator sandwich and make it snappy", but luckily comes to his senses just in time. As the ubiquitous signs remind us, "Harassing the alligators is a federal offense" and presumably placing one between two slices of bread would fall within this category.
We escape the mosquitoes by driving twenty-five miles up the road to Long Pine campground where we spend a relaxing weekend with Eric and Jeanette who have driven up from the Keys. Being around the camper, the "I want one of those" bugs strikes Eric again and within three days of getting home, they've bought themselves a trailer so they can join us in style next time. This virus and its various mutations can be kind of contagious.
We head west to visit Corkscrew Swamp, a sanctuary owned by the Audubon Society. It encompasses the largest stand of ancient Bald Cypress left in the USA and is home to an amazing variety of birds and reptiles partly as a result of the varied ecosystems within the sanctuaries boundaries. I won't bore you with a list of everything we saw but the elusive American Bittern, the Pileated Woodpecker and the Yellow Rat Snake stand out in our memories.
No mention of Corkscrew can pass without a brief commentary on the Lesser Spotted Birder; a rare species usually seen dressed in buffs and muted greens, congregating in great numbers during the mating season; the tell tale whispered voices, tripods and enormous camera lenses can leave no doubt as to their identity. Now there may be just a tinge of envy on my part about those lenses; our little camera seems like a sad and sorry excuse in comparison. I can only imagine the amazing images they're managing to capture.
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