After a day birding in the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, we headed south to Chokoloskee Island for an overnight in southern Florida’s ten thousand Islands, a frontier world long attractive to outlaws and outcasts. Chokoloskee was selected because of its historical importance as the place where Edgar “Bloody” Watson was gunned down by a fed-up bunch of locals way back in 1910 and immortalized in “Shadow Country,” the wonderful 900-page rewrite of Peter Matthiessen’s linked novels “Killing Mr. Watson” (1990), “Lost Man’s River” (1997), and “Bone by Bone” (1999) and subtitled “A New Rendering of the Watson Legend.”
The four of us played bridge a mere 100 yards from Ted Smallwood’s store that served as community center for the early pioneers of what was the last undeveloped part of the United States. Everglades National Park is slowly recovering to its original condition those settlers attempted to control with little success. Its hostility and raw beauty prevail for us to explore—perhaps not as it was at the turn of the century, but certainly as it shall remain for others to enjoy.
While driving back to Coral Gables, we stopped at Kirby Storter Roadside Park and meandered along their boardwalk through the wonderful big cypress environment. According to some Internet posts, this is fabulous country for star gazing.
Sightings for Feb. 14
Chokoloskee Island, Everglades
Blue-headed Vireos (5), American White Pelicans (75+), Brown Pelicans (10), Mockingbirds! Prairie Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Eurasian Collard-Doves, White-winged Doves, <Common Ground Dove> (2), Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Ospreys, Belted Kingfishers, Starlings, Fish Crows, Common Grackles, Cardinal, Double-crested Cormorants, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, <Semipalmated Plover> (8)
Big Cypress National Preserve
<White-eyed Vireos>, Crows, Robins, Osprey, Great Egrets, <Great White Heron>, Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Anhingas, Green Herons, Belted Kingfishers (many), Eastern Phoebes, Eastern Bluebirds (2), Loggerhead Shrike, Tree Swallows (1,000 +), American Coots, Common Moorhens, White Ibises, Red-winged Blackbirds, Wood Storks, Tri-colored Herons Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawks, <Domestic Muscovy Duck>
Alligators & Turtles
First time sightings: 5