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Blog - Florida 2018

DAY 11 - 20TH JANUARY 2018

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At last the weather is getting warmer, it has been in the 70s all day today.

We spent the morning visiting a few walks off the 41 and a long time with 4 park rangers at the end of one. They had a list of all the birds and stuff they had seen that morning, and, seeing it was only about 11 am, it was amazing that they had a list of about 33 things already including a deer. We learned later in the day from our naturalist that because it has been so cold the fish have moved off the coast so all the birds have dropped back from the coast into the wetlands. He thought nearly all the birds are off the 41 and it was the best place to see everything. Now it is getting warmer he says they will moved back to the edges.

Went back into Marco for a look around. There are numerous sites cordoned off for burrowing owls but it is way too early. The one I saw when here before was taken on the 27th January but that was a fluke. However, I keep looking. Next time we come we must come later. When Alison shows me her pictures she makes me very envious.

We arrived at Chokolocsee at the allotted time only to find the office closed but after a few minutes our naturalist guide appeared out of the bushes. A grizzled well worn face with a cherry smile - Charles. On our trip out we saw nothing, which was when he told us about the birds having moved inland. It was strange to see him all covered up in scarves, waterproofs, hat and gloves. He said he did not like the cold. It was not cold! He did take them off later. His safety talk was interesting and complex but he ended up by saying that the best thing to do if we fell out of the boat was stand up! The whole of that area all around the islands is only about 3 feet deep!

He took us to osprey nests, and we saw night herons, kingfisher and various other things including a dolphin with a baby. It was lovely to be out on the water. I was just saying to Geoff that wouldn't it be lovely if we saw some Great White Pelicans. We came around an island and there they were on the beach. I think these birds are wonderful. They are absolutely hug, about 3 feet high.. The sun was going down by then so helot us around the right side of them for the light. There must have been about 100 or so of them. I think they are like something from a fantasy film. We stayed with them a long time, Charles getting closer and closer until they started to get agitated. Taking pictures in a bobbing boat is an art form of which I have no experience and it was a bit hit and miss as my images showed when we got back home.

Charles was a mine of information and he seemed to enjoy answering our questions. He put a quite a lot of our pre-formed ideas to rights. Lovely chap.

With the sun going down we ended the trip by visiting a rookery, the like of which I have never seen. It covered one long island and lots of small ones. The trees were absolutely covered in birds. Mainly cormorants, pelicans, ibis, herons - in fact almost everything except egrets. The noise was amazing, not so the smell! After getting upwind of that we just sat there watching all the birds come in for about half an hour. It was absolutely wonderful just listening to them all settling down around us, on a mirror glass water reflecting the last rays of the sun. A magic moment. Charles' office!

We went back into Naples for dinner and it is still strange being on the road in the dark, watching out all the time for critters, especially where it says to watch out as panthers crossing. Not tonight.