Trip Report 1: Naples and Nature

I’m back. It was great. I’m excited to get back to work covering Philly, and you. I’m excited to return to writing an around town column a couple times a week. Goal set, 5 blog entries a week going forward, promise. I have so much to share.

OK let’s check out a few photos from my first 3 days in Florida, when I went to Naples. What a nice city. It’s really getting quite built up since I first went there a decade ago to visit Mike’s Aunt Bernie and Uncle Bob. Bob and Bernie met during the war in the 1960s. They’re great people, very intellectual and we always have wonderful chats with them. Bob is an incredible photographer, something he picked up after retiring from the military. Self taught, and so talented. He took me to my favorite nature preserve Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near their home. I’ve been back to see it 2 additional times. Let’s go check it out.

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is about 30 miles north of downtown Naples, sorta like where Northeast Philly is for us from Center City. It costs $17 to visit, and the park mostly consists of a boardwalk which sits high above a swampy forest. It’s wheelchair and kid friendly. When you first walk in you can check this board to see what kind of wildlife had been spotted the previous month. I only saw a handful of these sightings. It was an off day. I normally visit Florida in Jan, Feb or March. April is a little warm for the wildlife, and it’s also mating season which they seem to do in private, somewhere deep in the swamp.

I was still happy with what I saw. Here’s one of the last shots I took with my Signma 150 – 600mm lens before the autofocus machinery decided to fail. It was the 2nd time in one year that this has happened, and I’ve only owned the lens less than 2 years. So annoyed. I have to send it back again for repairs. Great lens, no complaints online about this issue, I’m just lucky I guess. Anyway, I only obsessed over it for the next day or so.

I am a birdwatcher, but I haven’t committed yet to memorizing the birds, and I’m ok with it. Gosh I can barely remember peoples names anymore, I can admire what they wear as much has the pretty feathers on this bird, which is some kind of stork.
I love these air plants. They just float around and find random homes in trees, and I noticed in Florida, even on telephone poles.

Oh hi Black Racer snake. He was at least 5 feet below the boardwalk, and amazed everyone.

I believe this is a Great Egret or heron, we have them in our area as well.

That evening we watched the sunset at our friends Rachel and John Paz’ house near 5th Avenue in Naples. It was so wonderful.

The next day Mike and I headed to my 2nd favorite park, the Everglades. I’ve been there at least 2 dozen times, but only have driven there from Naples once before. This time I thought I would take a scenic road, County Road 94 Turner or Loop Road they call it. It’d be a shortcut road if it were paved, but it’s a 23 mile stony dirt road which you can only travel 15 miles max on and it takes about 2 to 3 hours to complete, especially since it’s chock full of wildlife – birds, gators, fury beasts and beautiful scenery. Well worth it. In fact you see so much wildlife that when you go halfway you wish the rest of the road was paved so you could get onto your next adventure.

Anihinga is a very common bird in South Florida. They usually sit like this airing out their wings.

Whereas we only saw 3 alligators in Corkscrew, we saw dozens along Loop Road.

At first I was shooting the Green Heron, if you can see it on the tree root, but then I kept seeing something to the left flailing around. It was an Anihinga and it was stuck in fishing line. It was heartbreaking as there was nothing to help it. Someone nearby did try and call the police or animal warden, but cell phone service was very bad in this area, and I’m not sure what they could have done anyway as the gators were circling. Although it would have been a great National Geographic moment on video, I just couldn’t watch and we left. If you are fishing and a bird gets caught in your line, do not cut the line. Reel in the bird and try and undo the bird, or cut the line as close to the body as possible, otherwise the bird will fly around with the fishing line and eventually get tangled up in a tree or something, maybe itself, and that is just cruel. We knew it was fishing line cause the red bobber was nearby and still attached.

A federal endangered species a fox squirrel crosses the street. They’re red with really bushy tails.


Bird of Prey looking for dinner along Tamiami Road (Tampa / Miami Road, very clever)
Then we headed south towards the Everglades, which will be next weeks post. I hope to have a great comprehensive post of people in the news, and what’s happening in Philly on Sunday. Then get more organized in my future posts. Thanks so much for your support, and for saying hello out and about, for your notes etc. I really appreciate it.