For my birthday this year I invited some close friends to go camping at Collier Seminole State Park in the western portion of the Everglades, near Naples. We woke up Saturday to a beautiful, sunny day and rented canoes so we could paddle out to Mud Bay.
The Rangers warned us of a recent issue with the Catfish. Something was causing them to turn white, bleed around the lips, and die a very slow death. Hundreds were found near the canoe launch and all looked very sick.
While the Catfish suffered the Vultures flourished. I have never seen so many Vultures line a Mangrove bank as this one. Dead catfish were everywhere and so were the Turkey and Black Vultures. They were literally kettles overhead, vultures on the ground, and vultures in the trees. I am sure whatever is killing the Catfish will not harm the vultures and those iron-clad stomachs they possess.
Once pass the canoe launch and down the Mangroves a bit, we were relieved to smell clean air and enjoy the paddle without dead fish abounding.
Along the way we spotted Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Spotted Sandpipers, and White Pelicans. We also found Mangrove Crabs climbing on the root systems that lined the canoe tail.
After about 1.5 hours of paddling we found Mud Bay as the tide was coming in. We watched as the flats became smaller and smaller. The large flocks of peeps huddled together. Waders were scattered about and one lone American Coot was seen. It was a peaceful oasis with no one around but our little group.
After birding, wading around in the mud, and eating some snacks, we called it a day and fought the tide to make it back out to the main channel.
Our 3 hour paddle was the perfect way to unwind from the world and forget about everything. No cell phones, no computers, no work...just a nice paddle with friends to pass the time. Once back the group had a nice lunch back at the campground then we wandered back to the waterfront.
The girls all gave it a go at fishing while Andy and I took to the nature trail in search of a few more birds. We found a lovely one-mile boardwalk loop that ended at a marsh.
The nature trail yielded one Northern Mockingbird. The highlight of the trail was the nice pink lichen that covered many of the trees.
We ended the afternoon watching the sunset over the marsh and the vultures find trees to roost. That night we cooked chili at the campfire and played cards. It was a very nice way to escape into the wild of Florida and celebrate another birthday.