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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

The Everglades: Anhinga Trail

February 26th, 2011 · 1 Comment

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Midway through my February visit to Florida I connected with Russ Burden’s nature photo tour of “Birds of Florida” that I had signed up for the day that he announced it last year, October 12. As soon as I learned about the opportunity I knew that it was a natural for me.

I had met Russ when he spoke to the Colorado Nature Camera Club in November 2009. His presentation, style, and knowledge impressed me so much that I immediately got Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography by Jenni Bidner and photos by Russ. In that book his photos superbly illustrate how to handle all the challenges of photographing both nature and people.

Russ is both a professional photographer and a natural-born teacher. In fact he taught school in New York for 27 years before coming to Colorado about 20 years ago to work full time at his photography passion.

On his tour I took full advantage of his technical advice on composition, lighting, depth of field, and much more by asking many questions. Russ always replied with a depth of knowledge and a generous spirit.

His photo tour not only offered his knowledge and advice but also the benefit of the camaraderie that developed with the small group of people all focused on the same goal of returning with wonderful photographs of some of the country’s premier birding sites. Russ limits the size of his groups, and besides Russ and myself, it included only three others. By a wonderful coincidence, I already knew one of them, Cal, from the Colorado Nature Camera club, who had returned to this tour from last year’s. The other two participants in the tour, Barbara and Cheryl, both knew Russ well. I think that the fact that they had all come back for more speaks highly of his skill and friendly personality.

Russ drove all of us in one vehicle, a Dodge van. We met at a motel in Miami after flying there from Denver and went out for dinner together for the first night and every night thereafter.

Each of us carried either a professional or “prosumer” camera from either Canon or Nikon. Two of us used the Canon 7D camera, which I had just bought for the trip, and three were using the same lens, Canon’s 100-400mm zoom. And all of us carried big, heavy tripods to hold our heavy cameras and lenses.

We had five sessions in the Everglades, all on its premier site, the Anhinga Trail. The word “session,” which implies being seated is, however, hardly adequate. Each day we lugged our heavy equipment for miles along the boardwalk of the Anhinga Trail that took us to and through the sawgrass marsh. While the boardwalk is only 0.8 miles long, we walked it back and forth every day, starting before sunrise and finished after sunset with a mid-day break to back up our photos and recharge our personal and camera batteries.

We were blessed with full sun on most days. But on our second morning on the Anhinga Trail just before where the boardwalk starts we got there so early that we could barely see through the fog. The fog, however, created a intimate mood that we all appreciated.

Fog and Vultures in the Everglades

Fog and Vultures in the Everglades

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Up close, vultures aren’t pretty, at least by human standards. But they sure are interesting.

Close-up of a Black Vulture

Close-up of a Black Vulture

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An Anhinga on the Anhinga Trail

An Anhinga on the Anhinga Trail

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Anhingas can stay under water for a long time. The word “anhinga” comes from the Tupi language of Brazil and means devil bird or snake bird, because they often swim with only their slim necks out of the water.

An Anhinga Surfaces

An Anhinga Surfaces

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Just after sunrise on our third morning along the Anhinga Trail we came across this White Ibis as well as the Moon.

Ibis and Moon

Ibis and Moon

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But of all the birds that I saw my absolute favorite was one that I had never heard of before, the American Purple Gallinule. With its huge yellow feet, purple-blue plumage with a green back, and red and yellow bill, this bird is so colorful that I made sure to capture its image every time I saw this swamp hen come out of cover.

A Gallinule Almost Walks on Water

A Gallinule Almost Walks on Water

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Of course, we also saw alligators. The Everglades is full of them. They often came close to us, but we avoiding petting them even when they looked happy, like this one.

A Smiling Alligator

A Smiling Alligator

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A Congregation of Alligators

A Congregation of Alligators

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My, What a Big Mouth You Have!

My, What a Big Mouth You Have!

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After experiencing Everglades National Park as well as Dry Tortugas and Biscayne earlier on this visit to Florida, I have now seen 35 of America’s national parks with my own eyes. While I probably won’t make it to all of them, I have in mind to see several more, including our tropical national parks in American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands. I can’t imagine, however, a more wonderful trip than the one that Russ led to the Everglades and more, which I will document in further photo essays.

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Posted in: Florida, Photography

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Jennifer Mason // Mar 3, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    Love the pics! We recently visited the Keys, but didn’t make it to the Everglades, and after seeing your photos, I am really sorry we missed out!

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