Mexico Gulf and Big Cypress National Preserve

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Naples, a small town by the Mexico Bay. Nice beach and pier.


J. N. "Ding" Darling National Reserve on the Sanibel Island. We spotted some of the rare species of birds. In the first 2 pix is a group of Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja). Although similarly pinky as flamingos, its flat spoon-like bill cannot be mistaken. In the next 3 pix is a Yellow-Crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea).

Other birds: A White Ibis (Eudocimus albus, 2 pix); an Anhinga (A. anhinga, 1pic); a Great Egret (Ardea alba, 1 pic); an Osprey Nest (last pic).

On the waterfront. A group of White Pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos, 3 pix) and a Little Blue Heron (Egretta caerulea, 2 pix).

The good fishers going after the fishes: a Tri-Colored Heron (Egretta tricolor), a Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), and a Snowy Egret (Egretta thula, 3 pix). In the lat pic, a wading Sanderling (Calidris alba).

We have to be glad of our good fortune: here lies the northern most American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and the only one around the Park. There're only some four hundreds of American Crocodile left in the US. Most of them will not go this far north since it's getting chilly. This 30-years-old female somehow find herself comfortable here and has stayed for over a decade. Note that the armor of the croc is lighter in color and the teeth is certainly more ferocious-looking compared to the alligators. Some scary lady she is.

Other interesting creatures: a rare appearance of a Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus, 3 pix), which is known to be nocturnal (go out at night). This little heavily armored mammal is very good at digging. In the next two pix is a Mangrove Crab (Grandidierella bonnieroides, 2 pix). Unlike most of its relatives, who live in water, Mangrove Crabs live in Mangrove trees, hunting for insects, only go back down into water occasionally. In the last pic is a deserted shell of Horseshoe Crab (Limulus polyphemus). Like many invertebrate, it has to exuviate when the grow up.

The beaches of the Sanibel island are known for having plenty of colorful shells. Here are some of our souvenirs.


Big Cypress National Preserve. North of the Everglades, a mixture of Mangrove forest, prairies, and hard land. The "big" is referring to its extend of over 2,400 square mile of swamp. It's also a favorite hunting ground (last 2 pix, monster hunting SUVs).

The ever present Alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). In fact we may have seen more gators that human in the park. It's amazing to see many wading birds and fishes wandering around these alligators with no fear. Did they know they were very close to become the gator's lunch? Or did they just think that the sleeping gator is nothing but a floating dead log?

Talk about fishes, I've never seen so many fishes in my life. It make me feel like I can just dip in and catch one with bare hands, except that I have to keep in mind that an alligator is just some 10 feet away. Some smaller fishes crowded around shallow water, fighting each other for spaces. I never understood what they were fighting for, a chance to be eaten? These fishes include Blue Gill (Lepomis macrochirus, 3rd pic), Large Mouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides, 4th pix), and Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus, the long cylindrical fish in the last 2 pix), from small to large.

The wading birds here must have a wonderful life. The meals are practically dishing themselves in. The only trouble the little Ibis (Eudocimus albus, immature) had was that the blue gill it caught was too big, it struggled for quite a few minutes but still couldn't swallow it (1st 2 pix). Knife and fork please... But there're more skillful fish eaters, the little white Egret (not sure what kind, but certainly not a snowy egret from its black feet, although it's about the same size) caught and swallow a bass within a minute. Yum...

A pleasant sup rise was a chance encounter with the rare Roseate Spoonbill (Platalea ajaja), a beautiful pink wading bird with a funny flat beak like spoon. After Hurricane Katrina and Wilma, many of their inhabitants were destroyed and we didn't see any in several usual spots. Then all of a sudden, a glance of pink emerged from roadside, and there they were.

Other birds in the Preserve: a Wood Stork (Mycteria americana, 4 pix, an endangered specie) mixed with a group of Ibis (last 3 pix).

A Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus, 2 pix); a Tree Frog is near death due to the drought after the hurricanes (2 pix). We gave it some water and hope it'll last. A Panther specimen in the visitor center (1 pic).

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