Sunday, January 22, 2012

Everglades Re-visited 2 ……Big Cypress National Park

My visit to the USA in 2009 was never a dream come true. It was only because Naveen our son, having won a scholarship to read a PhD at Miami in 2006 and us qualifying for a Visa being able to meet the minimum financial requisites.

Camping in the Everglades  of Florida, the worlds  largest mangrove ecosystem was such a memorable event back in 2009. A speck of the Everglades seen, but the perspective in memory being so large given the size of the Everglades. Back home after a month's stay in Florida with a secreted wish to explore the Western Everglades if a chance was to come by.
Come 2011 we are blessed with our fist grand child and my wish to re-visit the Everglades was fulfilled. Though equipped with imaging paraphernalia and optical instruments this time, camping was not possible with the marauding swamps of mosquitoes. The winds from the south that push them away had not reached Florida yet. Instead we stayed over at Naples a town in the west coast of Everglades favoured by retirees visiting the Big Cypress National Park in the Everglades.  Big cypress National Park and two other visits to the Everglades National Park located more to the south where the famous Long Pine and the Flamingo camping sites and the Anhinga Nature Trail on board walks are located was mainly for birding and photography.

Big Cypress located slightly above the other western Everglades is home to native Miccosukee and Seminole tribes, who lived off the fauna and flora of the glades supplying  heron and egret feathers to hat-makers in New York and Paris are now facilitators to the hunters and visitors that come over for recreation.

Big Cypress differs from the Everglades National Park as the Miccosukee and Seminole people have permanent rights to occupy and use the land. Them, and the seasonal hunters are permitted to use off road vehicles [ORV] and Air Boats that glide over the saw grass swamps, while home and business owners have been permitted to keep their properties. The hunters here are so strong and puissant that them with conservationists and the natives were successful in deprecating a new airport facility within the Big Cypress area for international flights even after a runway was constructed. Justification being that the hunters put in more revenue towards conservation of the glades by hunting the deer for recreation in the glades seasonally.
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Air Boat that glides over the grasses
Yes…. the Americans are different. Today the natives provide lodging and conveyance facilities for the visiting hunter.Big cypress though touted as a "recreational paradise" by the Department of the Interior, the scientists and conservationists have noted the need to reduce the ORV trails by 700 km due to the adverse affect on the fauna and flora by over visiting and exploitation. This is despite to the persistent calls for more in roads from the hunters and ORV enthusiasts.

Clyde Butcher the renowned photographer who showed the world the  Everglades in Black and White  has  home and gallery in the Big Cypress. 

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Clyde Butcher Gallery - [inset] Clyde Butcher in conventional photography
Flora & Fauna of Big Cypress
Big Cypress is home for the Cotton-mouth snakes, Eastern Diamond-back rattler, Alligators, White-tailed deer , the very elusive Florida Panther,  Florida Black Bear, Wood stork and various other Florida birds. Mangrove forests, cypress trees, royal palm, cigar orchids, pines and prairie grasses are some of the vegetation types found in the preserve.

The Florida Panther is the most sought after creature in the Everglades and it is sad to say that most  seen are road kills. This specimen is one such, from an accident in May 1996. And is now displayed at the Big Cypress visitor centre. The link explains the fate of the Florida Panther.
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The final resting place for this female, a showcase for the masses; otherwise a most illusive species ,
The most venomous Cotton mouth snakes are much in the grass, one needs to be careful when trekking. Many are the snakes in the glades while the Burmese Python population that has procreated off six zoo escapees during a hurricane  is a major threat to the small mammal and deer populations and are now shot on sight.

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Cotton-mouth so called as it's inner lining of the mouth resemble cotton and is white in color

Numerous are the butterfly fauna that breed in the glades.

Larvae that consume substantial amounts of leaf matter
Finally the Butterfly
The Eastern Lubber [Orange and Yellow] is a grasshopper that is quite large
A Yellow and Orange Lubber grasshopper
The Bald-eagle has a large territory. This particular Eagle nests’ in the Big Cypress National Park
Exceptional diversity of avian fauna in the Everglades

Alligators are a galore…….thanks to a conservation aimed ban on shooting they have developed in numbers from almost extinct.

They come in all sizes
Its only the tip of the iceberg
Though waterlogged the flora is pleasing and artistically formed.

Flowering grasses floating grasses- numerous are the color hues
Water is pure and clean
Water-logged and trapped in the vegetation the volume of water is so large that the flow is hardly recognized
Cypress in the water
Dirt tracks for the ORV that chunk the Everglades threatening the fauna
Naples the stay over city in the West Everglades

Naples in the Southwest coat of Florida -- nestled on the sun drenched beaches of the Gulf of Mexico is a main up market stay over location for the visitor. Naples is known for world class shopping, dining and  is also, is only steps away from the untamed tropical wilderness of  Everglades. Boasting one of the nation's best sandboxes and calmest seas, Naples makes a splash with water lovers and recreationists. 

A beach for leisure and recreation


Toddlers, parents and grandparents they all come here to enjoy and relax
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Setting sun over the Naples' jetty
Sun going down in the Gulf of Mexico
A loner

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