Tuesday, April 19, 2022

The Flowers Explore - Everglades National Park

We're spending the week in Miami and we've got visitors! I'm sure there's some fun things we can go see and do together! 

Today we're checking out Everglades National Park! It's the US National Park with the second most diverse ecosystem (the first being the Great Smoky Mountains National Park)!

Our first stop is the visitor's center, where the kids picked up their Junior Ranger Guidebooks. We enjoyed the different exhibits around the center, pushing all the buttons that make animal noises, playing videos, etc. 

We've heard a few times about how to tell an alligator and crocodile apart. A friend told me that if you'll see them later, it's an alligator, but if you won't see it for a while, it's a crocodile. 
Actually it has to do with the shape of their snout. An alligators is more U shaped, while the crocodile has a V shape. It's cool to see the replica skulls to get a better look at that. 

Looking out over the wetlands. Everglades National Park covers about 2200 square miles, the 10th largest US National Park, and is roughly the size of Delaware. 

Leaving the visitor's center, looking at the different plaques and plants, oh my, there's a tree called Poisonwood? It shares properties with poison ivy and will leave red welts on your skin! Make sure we don't touch any of that today kids. 

After leaving the visitors's center, it was time to enter to park. The entry fee for Everglades National Park is $30 per vehicle, but luckily we have our Annual Pass from an earlier National Park this year (I think it was the Wright Brothers) and it got our whole vehicle in for free!

You've heard of the Florida Panthers NHL Ice Hockey team based out of Miami, right? Here in the Everglades we're going to have to watch out for the real thing! 

We're here just in time to catch the 1:30pm Ranger Talk. Really? Vultures might damage the rubber around the windshield? 

It's a Wednesday so we're counting this as a school field trip. We're on benches waiting for our "teacher" to arrive and start the lesson. 

While we waited, the kids continued their work on their Junior Ranger booklets. They learned about adaptations, one of the challenges was to draw a plant or animal and come up with your own adaptations for it. Ian was very creative and came up with a tree that generates electricity to protect itself from things that want to eat it. The ranger was impressed, saying that most every other kid pick an animal. Not many choose a plant.  

Our volunteer ranger showed up and taught us about the Everglades. We learned about the many different animal species. We learned that this is one of the few places where alligators' and crocodiles' habitats actually cross. You can be in a boat and see an alligator on one side and a crocodile on the other. 

After the talk, we had a little time before the next Ranger Guided Walk started. Let's go on a hike in the nearby Gumbo Limbo Trail. 

This plant leaf looks like a heart! My PictureThis app says this is a Muscadine Grape Vine, whose fruit can be eaten fresh or made into juice and jelly. 

We wandered along the pathways built over the swamplands. 

You're right Alli, that does look a bit like a Baobab Tree. Actually I think it's a Strangler Fig Tree. 

We see you hiding in there frog. 

Before our next talk, our Ranger Volunteer asked for some help from the kids in attendance. The kids were more than willing to help. 

We learned about the different adaptations that alligators have including enhanced motion detection (for feeling vibrations in the water), excellent night vision, an extra eyelid, and a throat flap. 

After the talk, it was time to go on a walk with the Ranger along the Anhinga Trail to see what we can see. 

Our guide was very knowledgable. On the kids' Junior Ranger booklets they were supposed to play animal bingo. We asked about critters like raccoons, and were told that ever since a big storm that hit the area (including pet stores) which released a lot of non-native snakes into the area, not too many raccoons are found anymore. 

These wetlands do have a particular beauty to them. 

Ah, here's a treat! It's an Anhinga! The bird that the trail is named after. It's sunning itself along the pathway. If you remember a few weeks ago when we saw that snakebird on the Van Fleet Trail eating a fish, that was an Anhinga! 

They have a sharp beak that they use to spear fish. Males have white/gray feathers along their back, while females have dark brown/black feathers. 

Excellent spotting Alli! It's a soft-shelled turtle!

Oh boy. This is what we were looking for. And it's a big fella too. We were told that a good way to estimate an alligator's length is to estimate the number of inches between the alligator's snout and the alligator's eyes. For every inch, that equals about a foot in length. Also note that alligators aren't really green like most cartoons show. They're black, which helps absorb heat, and blend in at night when they go hunting. 

At the end of the pathway we found a few more birds. 

These are Cormorants. You can tell them apart from the Anhinga because their beaks are curved at the end. 

Mind where you stand while you're listening to the ranger. 

After a fun tour, and a lot of time walking in the sun, Grandpa wanted to treat the kids. The shop here sells Frozen Chocolate Bananas and they come with so many different toppings!

Ian likes his Cookies & Cream banana, and Alli surprised me by going with Sprinkles instead of the pink Strawberry Crunch. Both gave me bites and they were both delicious. 

Now that we've completed the Ranger Talk the kids have done all the tasks necessary to earn their Junior Ranger Badge. Before we drove back home, we stopped at the visitor's center to turn it in. The Ranger checked their guidebook for completeness, asking them questions about things they learned today. 

The Ranger swore them in!

And along with getting their wooden badge for Everglades National Park, she surprised them both with Junior Ranger Patches too! They can put these on their vests that they got for Christmas!

The Grandparents were rightfully impressed. 

A closer look at the Junior Ranger Badge for Everglades National Park and their brand new Junior Ranger Patch! Usually the wooden badge has a picture on it that's specific to the park it's for. I was thinking the bison might be a generic picture, but after looking it up, I was wrong. There's even Bison that roam the Florida Everglades! 

Congratulations Junior Rangers on earning another badge! 
We all enjoyed our trip to the Florida Everglades! We saw a lot of animals, met some great Rangers, and enjoyed a lovely day outside in the beautiful Florida sunshine. 

1 comment:

  1. Good work, Ian & Alli, on earning another Junior Ranger badge and patch! both have quite a collection of badges...can't wait to see your vest with all those unique badges on it! Nice picture at the start with the kids on top of the rock w/ the Everglades sign, while the Grandparents and Parents flanked the rock. So many different animals and plants in the Everglades...definitely some "yikes!" ones such as the alligators, crocodiles, panthers, & poisonwood (not to mention the vultures and their hankering for rubber!) Ian had quite the creative idea on the tree generating electricity to protect itself from enemies as a form of adaptation. Different kind of beauty is reflected in the Everglades NP...but can't help think of what lurks beneath those still waters! Such a beautiful day for the Ranger walk and talk...great school field trip. P.S. That Cookies & Cream frozen banana sure looked yummy! EOM