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A panther-crossing sign warning motorists too be aware of the elusive florida panther (Puma concolor). Less then 200 remain in the wild.

Florida: "... an indistinguishable glob of gated communities, Jiffy Lubes, strip malls, Comfort Inns, RV Parks, Taco Bells, and clover-leaf interchanges." (Grunwald, M. The Swamp. 2006). At least that were some of my preconceptions about Florida. As it turned out... Grunwald is correct, but I was happy to discover a whole bunch of lesser known state parks and other designated natural areas besides Everglades National Park. Dear Floridians: your state might lack impressive elevation levels, but you guys are spoiled with the outdoors nevertheless. Take it from someone from a crowded country with slightly higher elevation levels... We snorkeled in Crystal River, canoed and camped in Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park, hiked in Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park and also visited Myakka River State Park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (not really a refuge if you allow hunting... but what's in a name?) and Canaveral National Seashore.

Setting up camp at Hell's Bay Chickee, Everglades National Park (stitch).
Setting up camp at Hell's Bay Chickee, Everglades National Park (stitch).
 


When a friend asked whether I wanted to accompany him on his upcoming trip in January to the Everglades... I really didn’t have to think long about the invitation to visit a National Park that is a household name almost everywhere. Coincidentally I ordered and read Mac Stone his beautiful photo book ‘Everglades: America's Wetland’ two months before. All in all I had a great 8 day trip – in no small part to my guide – which resulted in a brand new selection on wildlife in Southern Florida.

My travel mate and his ride in Everglades National Park. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, HDR, f/9, iso 100, handheld.
My travel mate and his ride in Everglades National Park. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, HDR, f/9, iso 100, handheld.
 


This trip was a good blend of photography and exploring the outdoors. Canoeing and camping in the backcountry was a great experience and we were lucky enough to see a bobcat and nine-banded armadillo. The last day of my trip brought us a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Centre as well as finally photographing the beautiful roseate spoonbill that kept eluding us. Also interesting – though sad – were some observations of species never seen before, like opossum, raccoon and even coyote – unfortunately in the shape of road kill. Snorkeling with the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) definitely was a highlight as well. Unfortunately, their location that day combined with low visibility underwater meant photography wasn't really possible. Observing and even hearing them was pretty neat however!

Falcon 9 rocket launch carrying a Dragon spacecraft to ISS. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 2000, handheld.
Falcon 9 rocket launch carrying a Dragon spacecraft to ISS. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 2000, handheld.
 


So what else did I learn during this trip? A few important findings:
  • using an 16 feet (4,87m) inflatable canoe among alligators isn’t as bad as it sounds;
  • while it’s winter there are LESS mosquitos and no-see-ums in Southern Florida… I like to point your attention to the word ‘less’, give it some thought and plan accordingly;
  • gator burgers (“You saw them, now eat them!”) are perfectly acceptable after surviving on pasta, oat meal and energy gels for a few days;
  • the USA is such a large country that not only birds, but also some people migrate north-south along with the seasons (snow birds);
  • some retirees take it one step further, by selling their house and migrating with their RV from National Park to National Park year round, functioning as hosts on the NP camp grounds (excellent idea!);
  • those RV’s sometimes tow a pickup truck which in turn holds a golf cart: for maximum mobility... no comment...

If you want to know more about the wider Everglades and its history I can really recommend Michael Grunwald’s “The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise” and the photo book of Mac Stone I mentioned before.

Beautiful photographs and excellent reading: 'Everglades' & 'The Swamp'.
Beautiful photographs and excellent reading: 'Everglades' & 'The Swamp'.

A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) showing its impressive wingspan. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 320, handheld.
A turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) showing its impressive wingspan. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 320, handheld.

Silhouette of a great egret (Ardea alba). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 200, handheld.
Silhouette of a great egret (Ardea alba). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 200, handheld.

A squirrel treefrog (Hyla squirella) on top of a bear proof trash can. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/20, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.
A squirrel treefrog (Hyla squirella) on top of a bear proof trash can. Canon 5D MKIII, Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro, 1/20, f/2.8, iso 3200, handheld.

The essence of the Everglades from on top of of a pickup truck: endless 'grass' and skies. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, HDR, iso 100, handheld + Cokin grad ND filter.
The essence of the Everglades from on top of of a pickup truck: endless 'grass' and skies. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, HDR, iso 100, handheld + Cokin grad ND filter.

A red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) on a dead tree. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/5.6, iso 320, handheld.
A red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) on a dead tree. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/5.6, iso 320, handheld.

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) sitting in mangroves. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 320, handheld.
Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga) sitting in mangroves. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 320, handheld.

Injured white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) buck crossing Tamiami Trail. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 400, handheld.
Injured white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) buck crossing Tamiami Trail. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 400, handheld.

B&W alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1000, handheld.
B&W alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 1000, handheld.

A gorgeous roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) preening. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 100, handheld.
A gorgeous roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) preening. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 100, handheld.

B&W image of common snook (Centropomus undecimalis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, 4, f/1/50, iso 100, handheld + EWA-Marine.
B&W image of common snook (Centropomus undecimalis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, 4, f/1/50, iso 100, handheld + EWA-Marine.

A green heron (Butorides virescens) on its perch with a spiderweb. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/5.6, iso 800, handheld.
A green heron (Butorides virescens) on its perch with a spiderweb. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/5.6, iso 800, handheld.

A basking Florida banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld.
A basking Florida banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 250, handheld.

Florida's state butterfly: zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/200, f/2.8, iso 100, handheld.
Florida's state butterfly: zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/200, f/2.8, iso 100, handheld.

Echinodorus sp. and other vegetation. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 125, handheld.
Echinodorus sp. and other vegetation. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 125, handheld.

Bromelia's and mangrove tunnels. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/60, f/2.8, iso 800, handheld.
Bromelia's and mangrove tunnels. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/60, f/2.8, iso 800, handheld.

Portrait of a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 800, handheld.
Portrait of a turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 800, handheld.

B&W osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on its nest. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/1000, f/7.1, iso 100, handheld.
B&W osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on its nest. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/1000, f/7.1, iso 100, handheld.

A young American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/200, f/2.8, iso 400, handheld.
A young American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/200, f/2.8, iso 400, handheld.

Fishing least stern (Sterna antillarum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/6.3, iso 160, handheld.
Fishing least stern (Sterna antillarum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/6.3, iso 160, handheld.

Sunset over Florida Bay. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/500, f/3.5, iso 100, handheld.
Sunset over Florida Bay. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/500, f/3.5, iso 100, handheld.

PINK: a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 100, handheld.
PINK: a roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 100, handheld.

An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with its catch. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/6.3, iso 250, handheld.
An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with its catch. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/6.3, iso 250, handheld.

Whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae) making circles. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 500, handheld.
Whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae) making circles. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 500, handheld.

Grazing white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/5.6, iso 2500, handheld.
Grazing white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/5.6, iso 2500, handheld.

Silhouette of a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) before plunging into the water. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/800, f/6.3, iso 100, handheld.
Silhouette of a brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) before plunging into the water. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/800, f/6.3, iso 100, handheld.

An threatened juvenile wood stork (Mycteria americana). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 125, handheld.
An threatened juvenile wood stork (Mycteria americana). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/6.3, iso 125, handheld.

A perched red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.
A perched red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160, f/2.8, iso 200, handheld.

Fiddler crab sp.? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/250, f/3.5, iso 100, handheld.
Fiddler crab sp.? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/250, f/3.5, iso 100, handheld.

Sunset over Everglades National Park. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/5.6, iso 2000, handheld.
Sunset over Everglades National Park. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/640, f/5.6, iso 2000, handheld.

Light! End of a mangrove tunnel. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/125, f/4, iso 100, handheld.
Light! End of a mangrove tunnel. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/125, f/4, iso 100, handheld.

A lonely swamp lilly (Crinum americanum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/40, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
A lonely swamp lilly (Crinum americanum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/40, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

Basking yellow slider or eastern river cooter? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, Canon Extender EF 1.4x III, 1/500, f/8, iso 400, handheld.
Basking yellow slider or eastern river cooter? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, Canon Extender EF 1.4x III, 1/500, f/8, iso 400, handheld.

Great egret (Ardea alba) flying over a foggy early morning landscape. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
Great egret (Ardea alba) flying over a foggy early morning landscape. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/200, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

Surrealistic dead tree on the bottom of Three Sisters Springs. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, 1/40, f/4, iso 3200, handheld + EWA-Marine.
Surrealistic dead tree on the bottom of Three Sisters Springs. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 17-40mm f/4.0 L USM, 1/40, f/4, iso 3200, handheld + EWA-Marine.

A distant wildfire. Canon 50D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/800, f/6.3, iso 100, handheld.
A distant wildfire. Canon 50D, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/800, f/6.3, iso 100, handheld.

Portrait of a black vulture (Coragyps atratus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 640, handheld.
Portrait of a black vulture (Coragyps atratus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/320, f/5.6, iso 640, handheld.

A giant airplant (Tillandsia fasciculata) between bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 400, handheld.
A giant airplant (Tillandsia fasciculata) between bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 400, handheld.

Flying osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a possible Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus)? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/400, f/4.5, iso 100, handheld.
Flying osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a possible Asian swamp eel (Monopterus albus)? Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/400, f/4.5, iso 100, handheld.

A green heron (Butorides virescens) fishing. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
A green heron (Butorides virescens) fishing. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/250, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.

A great egret (Ardea alba) and black vultures (Coragyps atratus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon Extender EF 1.4x III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 200, handheld.
A great egret (Ardea alba) and black vultures (Coragyps atratus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon Extender EF 1.4x III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/8, iso 200, handheld.

A roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) looking for food in the swamp. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 320, handheld.
A roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja) looking for food in the swamp. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/500, f/6.3, iso 320, handheld.

The colorful purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/60, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
The colorful purple gallinule (Porphyrio martinicus). Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM, 1/60, f/5.6, iso 3200, handheld.
 


New photos: Florida