Shark Valley Birding

Red-Shouldered Hawk_EvergladesNP-FL_LAH_5107-001My camera was aimed at a Red-shouldered Hawk perched high in a tree, diligently preening its tail feathers. The angle was awkward—too far and the bird was a mere speck in the picture, too close and I was looking at the bird from below. I slowly backed up, trying to fill the frame and still capture the action. Intent on getting the shot, I stumbled over something behind me, and turned to see what was blocking my way. Oops! I’d tripped over an alligator!

Lucky for me, it was a relatively small alligator, perhaps six or seven feet long, and sound asleep in the warm sunshine. As my adrenalin levels receded, I made a mental note to pay more attention to my surroundings. After all, I was birding in the Everglades!


Birder Heaven: South Padre Island


South Padre Island is full of hotels, restaurants, condos, fishermen,  and tourists. Since my husband and I were accompanied by some older, non-birding friends, we weren’t able to arrive until midday, definitely not the best time to go birding. Then, when I discovered that the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center now charges admission, I almost turned back. I’m glad I didn’t.

It had been years since our last visit, and things have changed. There is now a large nature center housing some excellent interpretive displays plus the usual nature-related souvenirs. You now have to go through the building (and pay your $5, less for children) to reach the boardwalks that extend out over the bay.