The stage is set...My last day in Florida with a flight out at 3pm but my rental due back around 1:30pm. So.....I had to decide what to do my last day in southern Florida. Do I return to Matheson Hammock and look for parrots? No...I don't want the hours of traffic. Do I return to the bridge to Key Largo and look for a warbler from Cuba according to Ebird? No....too much time going south and besides, the warbler didn't have a visa and wouldn't be around long, according to the weekly Travel State Department memo I get.
So, I decided to first look for Kites. I heard that in Field 357, yes...even down in Florida in the Everglades they have odd sounding names, much like Cape May area has. The Beanery, Meadows,.....etc...well, why not Field 357?
Off I went to Field 357 as I didn't have any map quest in my VW Passat Rental but did have the foresight to write the directions down on a piece of scratch paper and almost immediately got lost following my gibberish What way was actually 'up' on the map?. Like Jersey, the roadsigns don't match the map. .....Hmmmmm...stuck in the middle of no-where and wanting to get in some last minute birding. Wait a minute, I have a phone right? And map quest is on my phone...Bingo. I did it, I looked up Field 357 between 168 street and 300 something avenue and took off in the general direction, turning when the blue bubble on the map came up to a cross section. After about 45 minutes I found Field 357.
I waited...saw a crow.... saw nothing more. No kites, no sparrows...nada. Do I stay here and pass away a few hours waiting for something to turn up? If I had an extra day here in Floriday, yes....but when it is your last day and down to a few hours at that, well, no way. I am off. Where to you ask? Well the northern Everglades and Shark Valley Visitor Center.
Made it there...one hour +. I am down to how many hours left now? 2+ till 'car turning in time'..... it will take me a solid hour to get to Fort Lauderdale Airport so I have time for a short walk and little more for I am in a hurry, yes a hurry.
Buses of kids....buses....many people who spoke German and Italian and French walking around. People on bikes as they bike the trail. A tram that takes visitors up the 15 miles path to an observation tower. But no, I can't do that for I have no time, so I asked the lady ranger and she said to take this walk, over there...as she pointed. I am in a rush, in a rush...much like Alice in Wonderland and no place to stop and chat for I have no time and am in a hurry.
Off I went...hurry like....down the path I walk...I see an Anahinga.... I see a palm warbler...I have allowed myself a half hour to walk down and half hour to walk up, no more....no more. I see a couple staring in the bushes and I walk up to find a Limpkin two feet away. It spots us, (dah) and walks in front of us on the path. Then flies off for it too must be in a hurry...in a hurry. I walk forward and find a man on a bike get off and start snapping pictures at something....yeah, over there I see a Common Moorhen. I am down to a few minutes on my walk out and still need to do the return leg but figure I can do that in a hurry... Nothing else, so I turn back. I see the same birds on the return leg but spot a northern Cardinal and pass the small alligator who is sunning itself on the way back with a few visitors taking selfies in front of it, like they are in the wild fighting off a wild beast. Well, they are in the wild I guess but not really...but their selfie will certainly make it look like they are. Wow, you did what and where were you?
Down to a few minutes and make it to my car...hmmm...oh, I see ranger over there so I get out, a few minutes late I am but he is pointing to a bird so I get out of the car and walk to him..I am in a hurry but I hear him talking about a Purple Gallinule. Well, I have seen those in the lower Everglades. Can you spot the Purple Gallinule in my two images in the upper portion of this blog? Which one is it? .....guess....I tell you guess. Have you yet? Guess....
Now there is a lady who has a 300mm lens (white Canon, as I know, I had one too), taking pics of the Gallinule. She tells me that she never gets a good shot of a Gallinule since they are so hard to sit still...spooky little things that hide in the reeds but this one was further out of the reeds, so a good shot. As she takes a shot (one at a time, no....take the shutter and just click away lady, ....take a ton of images and don't worry about 'one at a time'...)...anyhow, I am in a hurry but she keeps on talking to me. She says that Purple Swamphens are far easier to take shots of. What? What...a Purple Swamphen? Where...where are they? ..."Oh, Dolphin Mall in Miami. They have them there all the time" she replies. I have never seen a swamp hen so this is a' must'...
I am in hurry...in a hurry...need to walk back the car. The car...oh yes, I left the door open in the car and all of my stuff is in it...yikes...I rush back to the car and all is safe so I pull out my phone and place in directions on my phone to the Dolphin Mall. I am in hurry and can't spend wasteful time at the mall. I am in a hurry remember.
Go...I go...I leave the park in hurry and am followed by a car that is up my butt but hey man, I too am in a hurry, so hold on...I am speeding up. I drive down highway 4 fast like and hit the Florida TurnPike... I get on, fast like...speed up the turnpike 5 miles at 75 MPH and turn off the ramp at 50 MPH and put on the breaks about 10 yards from the red light. The minute I stop, the light turns green and I am off...I see the mall, ---right over to the left. Lots of water around it. I am off and other cars are right behind me, as we are all in a rush like in Alice and Wonderland. I get in the left hand turn lane into the mall and wow, we are off..green light. I am into the mall going 45 mph and veer to the right for the first-man made lake I find. I park the car across the parking lot divide and have to somehow manage to get across this busy mall street to the lake. I feel like I am in a PacMan game as I sprint forward, to the left, then to the right..a few steps forward...one back, oops....that car barely missed me. I go forward and sprint to the ending green grass in sight. I am there.....
I look at the lake and sure enough...there is a swamp hen, just like that. In fact..over to the left are three more...yikes... I take a quick look, cool bird but I have no time. Time is running out on me as the car has to be back by 1:30 and Fort Lauderdale is still a ways away. I cross the street in reverse PacMan order and pile into the car and take off with windows down and paper flying out of the window...
In the car, close the door...windows open, across the street, to the stops sign, around the stop sign, thru the bend, over to the main road, around to the right of the light and forward ....past the Dolphin Mall sign. To the right near the Pike entrance and on the pike. Around a truck I go and down the pike...miles...but all fast, as I need to get the car back.
Up north...north...and more north....around onto 95 and north some more and then a right onto 595...straight and more straight. I follow the signs to the airport...and keep on going. Lots of signs but no road to the airport and yet I can see the airport. I finally find 'THE" turnoff to the airport and the rental car lane. To the left, stay in the left hand lane for all rental car returns. Oh crap...gas....I haven't filled up with gas since I was in Keeeeeeeeyyyyyyy LLLLLAAAARRRRRGGGGGOOOOOO ( very slow paced locale)....heck, out of luck as there are no stations along the way. What? How can they do that to me and have no gas stations near the airport? Now I will have to pay like $8 dollars a gallon now per the rental agreement if not returned 'on full'..crap...
Okay...screeching into the rental car return at a few minutes past 1:30...just in time, somewhat. I keep going up the ramp to the second deck...past Avis, Hertz, Enterprise...where is Dollar?....I am almost at the end ...did I miss it? No...there is it...there, I pull in...turn off the motor and open the trunk and retrieve my bag.....whoa nelley, what a ride man.
The lady comes up and checks me in and says that will be $162... ..Really I say? (she didn't notice the gas on empty)...I sign the receipt and skedaddle on down into the tram to the airport... What bus?, Oh yes...terminal 4 so that bus over there will do. I get on the bus and with ticket in hand, I make it to Gate G security. Boots off, belt off.....hat off, jacket off, phone out, reading glasses out, wallet in the bin, computer out of the bag, aspirin out of my pocket, and I shove my gear thru the X-ray machine. Fine...all nice...
I put on my stuff...boots, belt, hat, jacket, replace the phone, pick up my reading glasses, wallet back in pants, computer in bag, aspirin in pocket....and pick up my gear and head to the gates. I need to eat...eat....eat...I haven't had anything to eat since, well....breakfast at my 'dive of a hotel'...I have about 25 minutes until we board so I am in a hurry but might be able to eat something if they are fast.
So I stop off at the Cuban restaurant and order, what else...? A Cuban. I eat...rush, gobble it down but at least I eat. I am still in a hurry now as boarding has to be about 'now'...I pull myself up to Gate 6. The Gate has been changed to Gate 14, oh well...just a short walk. Time to board... I get to Gate 14 and find the plane is delayed.... Supposed to leave at 3pm...delayed to 4 due to it is late leaving from JFK.
I crawl to the gate at 3:30 ready to board. Delayed..computers not working so we can't check in. Right.....right, I forgot, this is Spirit Airlines. I am surprised they even have computers.
I wait...stand...listen to some business man next to me provide me with his life story about whatever...(he sounded like the teachers on Charlie Brown)... it is coming on 4:30. ...Hmmmmm..
Finally, we start boarding around 5...two hours past our flight was due to leave. And for what?
We board....we sit on the plane...sit...sit....sit. The pilot comes on and states that there is another computer problem but in 15 minutes all should be okay. I remember, this is Spirit airlines so again, computers? We sit...sit...sit...
5:30 comes and goes...but at 5:35 the pilot says all is a 'go''....wow.... We leave around 5:45 though and make our way to 'take-off' which we do. I fall asleep....
Around 8 ...my sleep is disturbed by the pilot as he says 'prepare for landing'...okay. I just sit and yes, we land.
Deb is there to meet me around 8:45....we go out and have a glass of wine or two or three and a few sliders. I am back in Jersey. Would one ever think that being back in Jersey is actually taking life in the slow lane?
So...which one is the purple swamp hen and which one is the purple Gallinule? Have you figured it out yet?