View of the Chapel Trail Nature Preserve boardwalk:
During my working days, I attended meetings or connected flights through Florida several times. Never did I think of the Sunshine State as a place to call home. Having lived in New Orleans for several years, I thought of Florida as a place even more flat, hot, humid and buggy, requiring one to become a hermit in an air-conditioned cell. Four seasons always were more appealing and interesting to me. In temperate climes it is easy to escape the cold by piling on more layers of clothing, and a fan is often enough to dispel the heat. That’s why I chose the mountains of New Mexico for our retirement home, and Mary Lou agreed (somewhat reluctantly at first, as she had trouble choosing between mountains and oceans).
When our younger daughter and her husband transferred from Puerto Rico to south Florida, we visited them several times. I had to admit that the winters there were delightful, and living in a T-shirt and shorts for most of the year was also appealing. Priorities change as the years go by, and we encountered the disadvantages of life in a large home in the mountains with limited access to essential services. We pulled up stakes and moved to Florida.
During our visits to Florida I had been following the progress of the creation of a large preserve near our new home, set to open around the time of our move. The developers of adjacent subdivisions were required by law to set aside a plot of 459 acres of wetlands to mitigate damage done to the Everglades.
The City of Pembroke Pines put much money and effort into removing exotic invasive vegetation and replanting native grasses,sedges, trees and shrubs:
When vandals started a fire, damaging the newly constructed boardwalk that spanned the wetlands, we were very disappointed that the opening had to be delayed for several months. Then, in the summer of 2005, after the park had been only open for about half a year, Hurricane Wilma destroyed much of the boardwalk. It took many more months to repair the damage before the preserve reopened.
Among the more memorable sightings during past years at Chapel Trail was this visiting Merlin, in December, 2008:
The same day we saw the Merlin, I told Mary Lou that I wanted to photograph at least one Purple Swamphen before the last one in Florida is exterminated. Purple Swamphens are native to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and other Pacific islands. They were believed to have first been released intentionally by private citizens near Pembroke Pines only about 15 years ago. Despite an eradication program, they have continued to multiply and now range northward up nearly half the Florida peninsula.
When we first visited Chapel Trail three years previously, swamphens were quite abundant, but I did not acquire my first digital SLR camera until 2008. I feared it was too late to see another, as they had been easy targets for the hired hands who killed over 100 a day. In 2006 alone, 3000 were gunned down by State wildlife officers. An open hunting season is planned, though I am concerned that hunters may not always distinguish between swamphens and native gallinules. See: Trash Birds
Swamphens look something like giant Purple Gallinules. They crowd out and prey upon the eggs and nestlings of native gallinules and other marsh birds:
Periphyton floats to the surface in the winter. It coats submerged plants and is an important source of food for aquatic organisms. It consists of algae, cyanobacteria, and other microbes, and detritus, and its presence is a sign of a healthy Everglades ecosystem:
After a beautiful sunrise, the rains came, and we only got in a few minutes of walking the boardwalk. I had to lighten up some very dark exposures.
This Red-shouldered Hawk would not stop screaming:
I feared for the safety of this bird! A few weeks ago, ahead of us as we exited the parking lot, the crane nonchalantly walked out the entrance and across busy Sheridan Road.
A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher in Cypress tree that is now shedding its leaves:
I was lucky to catch a wintering Belted Kingfisher in flight:
Neither would back down:
They finally came to blows: