Saturday, December 24, 2016

12/23 Myakka Lake Boat Tour

I neglected to take pictures of the "world's slowest" airboat that takes people around on the lake here in Myakka RIver State Park, but I can describe it as a big green boat holding about 60 people.  It has a big air fan on the back that is its only method of propelling it, mainly because the lake is so incredibly shallow that anything else would get stuck. 

The point of this very slow tour is to see the alligators and birds on other parts of the lake.  This lake is restricted to canoes and kayaks only, so there is not much of a way for most people to get out onto it and see any wildlife.

The first photo is of my campsite, but the rest are all of wildlife. Nice big campsite, right?

One of the best places to see alligators and birds is from the bridge that crosses the Myakka River.  The alligators hang around because of the people fishing from the bridge and the small chance they might get some leftovers.
The river is especially wide and shallow here, so the birds like it also.  Note the alligators on the bank.

 I had to use my telephoto, but these are two roseate spoonbills at the far end.

You can really see the wispy breeding plumage feathers on this great blue heron's head and on his chest.  We don't see this very often up north because they don't breed as often there. 

 We had lots of opportunities to see swimming alligators in the lake.  Some of them came right up to us.

When I took this picture, I thought I was taking a photo of a tricolored heron, but hiding over to the left is a common gallinule.  It is duck-like, but not a true duck, and it is easily identified by its orange and yellow bill.  Normally, a tricolored heron is darker blue-grey and has this one is in non-breeding plumage, so it is mostly white and grey.  Here are some photos of one in breeding plumage:

I am learning that birds may change their plumage, but never their bills or leg colors, so those are good indications of what they really are.

It was getting late, so many of the vultures had picked out their roosts for the night.  They prefer dead trees or trees with few small branches and leaves.

If you look very closely at these vultures, you can see that some have reddish heads and some don't.  The ones with the reddish heads are turkey vultures which are common throughout the U.S.  The shiny all-black birds in the front are black vultures, which live only in the southern states and in South America.  They are slightly smaller than the turkey vultures, but they all hang out together in large flocks.  You will also see them sociably eating on the same carcass.

All About Birds says, "With sooty black plumage, a bare black head, and neat white stars under the wingtips, Black Vultures are almost dapper. Whereas Turkey Vultures are lanky birds with teetering flight, Black Vultures are compact birds with broad wings, short tails, and powerful wing beats. The two species often associate: the Black Vulture makes up for its poor sense of smell by following Turkey Vultures to carcasses. Highly social birds with fierce family loyalty, Black Vultures share food with relatives, feeding young for months after they’ve fledged." 
This is a view of the concession stand as we are heading back to the dock.  They not only have a large supply of the usual souvenirs, but a really nice cafĂ© with food cooked to order. 

Just added a picture of the world's slowest airboats.  Top speed is about 4 mph.

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