After an awesome day in the Everglades, I knew I was going to have to come back later in the trip. I also wanted to walk the famous Snake Bight Trail because a few years before, I had been forced off it by mosquitoes. There had been some good Ebird reports coming from it too including sightings of mangrove cuckoos and painted buntings. I also wanted to walk the Anhinga Trail because it is such an extraordinary place.
We arrived pretty early in the morning at the Anhinga Trail. It was pretty cold that day and the trail was quite, both person wise and bird wise. There were a good number of anhingas, a couple of alligators, juvenile little blue heron, a pair of great egrets, and a moorhen (no wait, gallinule, forgot about that little name change). Because there weren’t many birds around, we decided to walk Snake Bight and then come back. A few minutes later we were pulling into Snake Bight.
We got out of the car and began to walk down the trail. A couple minutes down the trail, we saw a bird take off and stopped to see if we could find it again. I was pishing into the bushes and then I looked down and there, about three feet away in the leaf litter, a beautiful male painted bunting!!
A Terrible Blurry Shot of a Painted Bunting
They are really remarkable birds and they have such vivid color. It was a life bird for me and an awesome one too! We continued down the trail excited by this awesome sighting.
Not too much longer, I just happened to look up and there perched on a branch, looking down at me, a bird I have been dreaming of seeing since I first became a birder, a mangrove cuckoo! The so-called holy grail of south Florida birding! Such amazing looks too! The only downside is that it was one of those moments when you are so engrossed looking at a bird that you completely forget to take pictures. Oh well still a very cool bird.
A couple minutes later, a white-crowned pigeon jetted across the trail. Not a life bird but a first of year and an awesome bird.
Not long after that, we arrived at the end of the trail at the bay there. There were a huge number of shorebirds out on the mudflats exposed at low tide. However the only ones we could make out were a flock of Willet. However, we could see a few snowy egrets and two reddish egrets. There were also a few white-eyed vireos singing in the bushes.
We then started to walk the trail back. The highlight on the way back was a mixed flock of warblers containing palm, black-and-white, worm-eating, and magnolia. There was also a pair of piliated woodpeckers which were nice to see.
Shot of Black-and-White Warbler from Behind
We then decided to return to the Anhinga Trail. It was more active then and we got great looks at anhingas, purple gallinules, alligators, green herons, and more. If you have never been to the Anhinga Trail it is amazing! The birds there have gotten acclimated to people over the years so you see huge numbers and get great looks at some awesome birds.
We then left the Everglades and headed north towards Marco Island where we would be staying for the next few days. We would be driving along the Tamiami Trail which goes right trough the Big Cypress National Reserve which is one of the prettiest places in the US. However, before entering the reserve, we were going to stop at Shark Valley which is a 15 mile trail passing through the northern portion of the Everglades. We walked along the first part of the trail and saw a couple of purple gallinules, anhingas, various waders, and an injured limpkin. The limpkin’s leg was missing a piece of it and the bone was showing. It also appeared to be quite swollen.