In March of this year, I set aside my busy schedule, packed my cameras, and embarked on a familiar adventure to Everglades National Park. This “river of grass” is one of my favorite locations to get lost within and photograph its vast and diverse landscape. Although it is surrounded by bustling cities, it is a unique biosphere that is full of extraordinary wildlife and tranquil scenery. For bird-watching enthusiasts, Everglades National Park is home to more than 350 species of birds and a wide variety of other creatures that find refuge in this subtropical wilderness. I’d like to share with you a few photographs of special moments I captured while wandering through this avian oasis.
There are 72 recognized species of heron. The Tricolored Heron, formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, is called the “Lady of the Waters” for its beauty and grace. These birds are also very social animals that breed in colonies like other wading birds. Their striking blue coloring and white belly distinguish them from other species of heron. During the breeding season, males perform a courtship dance and their blue plumage is especially vibrant. I captured this shot while in awe as they elegantly navigated through the shallow water most likely in search of fish, crustaceans, insects, and small amphibians.
The Green Heron is less recognizable than its larger cousins. When I spotted this chestnut brown and deep green bird, I paused to quickly capture him while he was perched upon a low branch above the shallow marsh. Although these birds are stocky and have relatively short legs, the anatomy of their thick neck allows them to extend it to strike the water’s surface and catch a fish with their dagger-like bill. When necessary, Green Herons are one of the few birds that use tools to hunt for fish. These resourceful creatures are known to drop bread crusts, insects, and feathers on the surface of the water to lure in their prey.
Another colorful species I found was this beautiful Purple Gallinule. From beak to claw, these appropriately named birds are known to stand out in the wetlands and swamps they migrate between. The purple gallinule is about the size of a chicken but has very long legs and toes that allow them to balance on lily pads and navigate through the swamp with ease. I was very lucky to find such an incredible species during my trip. Sadly, there are only around 10,000 purple gallinules left in the world.
Vultures are essential workers within the animal kingdom. This Black Vulture is the smaller species related to the turkey vultures that one might often see across North and South America. They may be shrouded by their bad reputation, but their diet of carrion plays an important role in their environments. I found this misunderstood bird to be almost handsome as I took this photograph. In a previous post, I wrote about the magical moment of capturing eye contact with a bird in its natural habitat, and this connection was one to remember.
Last, but not least, I spotted a gorgeous Snowy Egret carefully wading with its unique yellow feet through the swamp grass. Although they seem serene while gliding their long legs through the calm water, these birds are known to be aggressive when they feel threatened, so I appreciated their beauty from a distance. It was not that long ago when these delicate creatures were listed as an endangered species due to their white plumage being used to decorate women’s hats and clothing. Luckily, early conservation efforts have since protected these birds and their population is increasing.
Spending this precious time in nature while photographing wildlife in their natural habitats always reminds me of how beautiful yet fragile these ecosystems are. The American Everglades are at risk of rising seas, human development, and devastating storms that are increasing due to climate change. Protecting this unique biosphere is of the utmost importance if we are to ensure the future and well-being of the animals that live there. For more information about current issues affecting the Everglades, click here.
Have you ever visited the Everglades? Please share your stories and experiences photographing wildlife in their natural habitats below!
Thanks for reading,