A Cold Start to Sunday Morning

Sunday April 10th 2022

It was cold for this area at this time of year this morning. The inside temperature in my RV home was fifty degrees when I got up. It took until noon for the outside temperature to reach seventy degrees. The issue was dressing properly for the temperature. Not having to wear warm clothes for the last few weeks has resulted in being out of practice.

The Myakka River on a clear sunny morning.
Clear sky over the Myakka River as the sun is setting

The campground really emptied out this morning. This is a clear indicator that local Florida residents are the primary users of the campground at this time of year. Most travelers would leave on random days of the week, but local people that have to return to work on Monday leave on Sunday. When I’ve stayed here in December, I haven’t seen a large exodus on Sunday which I consistent with more travelers as represented by the out of state license plates. The park filled up my the end of the day. Many of the new arrivals were from out of state. I think this may mean I should have less competition for reservations for stays starting in the first half of the week rather than the second which includes the desirable weekend for locals.

I got in my two long walks along the river today. On my first walk many of the alligators were hiding out in the water. Only a few were taking the sun on the river bank. On my second walk of the day I found a few birds, but most of the alligators were back in the river. The big wildlife observation on my second walk was a group of deer. They were in the woods along the main park road. I was able to walk within twenty feet of them. They took note of my presence, but went right back to grazing.

A Chilly Saturday Along the Myakka River

Saturday April 9th 2022

The northwest wind was stronger today and the overall temperature was lower than Friday. The result was a need to dress warmer. Unfortunately, I came to that conclusion long after I’d endured my chilly walks. The alligators were anther indicator of the temperature. Early in the day the alligators were out on the river bank. As the day went by the wind picked up and they retreated to the water.

I was up early this morning to make another reservation for next winter. The task got completed successfully, but probably because I started with my second choice of location. I checked yesterday on availability at my first choice and found nothing suitable was available. In two weeks I’ll try again.

The state park was busy today. A lot of locals were enjoying outings in the day use area. There were several large groups having cookouts complete with lawn games. Deeper in the park the parking areas at the wayside stops were filled with cars. There was a good selection of states represented based on a quick survey of the license tags. Parking seems to be a challenge for some people. Cars were parked at odd angles blocking access for some and completely boxing in other cars, but at least they made attempts to get off the road. A few people seem to think stopping in the middle of the bridge, putting the car in park, opening all four doors so everyone can jump out and look for alligators is appropriate behavior. Traffic was blocked for several minutes.

There were a few wading birds around the park today. One blue heron seemed to play hop scotch with me as I walked along the river this afternoon. It flew in for a little fishing in the river, then flew away not long after I took its picture. I caught up with it a hundred yards or so down the river. This time I moved on before it decided to fly again. It caught up with me down the river. This repeated three or four times before it flew away from the river.

On my last walk of the day the alligators were all underwater, but a few birds were wading in the shallows. This is the biggest concentration of the bigger birds I’ve seen at the bridge over the Myakka River this spring. It still only a fraction of the number of birds I saw on my December visit.

Finding the Birds

Friday April 8th 2022

What a difference a day makes. It was almost cold this morning. Yesterday’s clouds and humidity were gone. It was a bright sunny day with a strong northwest wind with a starting temperature in the low sixties. The temperature only climbed into the mid seventies. It was a beautiful weather day.

On my morning walk it was apparent that the alligators thought it was a great day too. There were many alligators out of the water taking the sun on the river bank. A few more were still in the water, but as the temperature climbed into the low seventies some of those found the river bank as well.

The big wading birds still aren’t plentiful in the park. This morning I saw the same limpkins I’ve been seeing all week. As an added dividend a Great Blue Heron was looking for lunch up the river from the bridge a good distance. I found more birds later in the day out of the park.

During the afternoon I was along the gulf coast in the Bradenton area. The strong wind was whipping up the water into some significant wave action. This is the area I found birds. The Egrets were mingling with the Brown Pelicans and the Sea Gulls. Everybody was happy getting their fill of fish from the fishing boats and the bait fish in the water.

A Day in Transition

Thursday April 7th 2022

I woke this morning to a bright white sky. The sun was blocked by a layer of clouds, but they were thin enough that a lot of light came through. The other prime element of the days weather was the humidity. The moisture in the air needed to be cut just to walk through it. The weather was the main influence on the overall day.

This Limpkin was the only big bird I saw on today’s walk.

The animal life in the park was hiding from the weather. All of the alligators were in the water. A few were swimming, but most of the visible gators only had their eyes and snout above the surface. The bird life was not out in the open area. The trees and tall grass provided a little more shelter from the strong wind than the open river bank. The only animal life I saw on the river bank was a single turtle that had used its limited energy to climb onto a log.

Midway through the afternoon the cold front arrived. I was driving in downtown Sarasota at the time. Conditions were not ideal. The rain fell sideways from the wind, visibility was poor and traffic was heavy. The storm front lasted for a little over two hours. On the other side of the front, the temperature was ten to fifteen degrees lower, the wind let up and the humidity was gone.

Turtle balancing on a log.

Back at the campground this evening there were plenty of big puddles and a few downed clumps of leaves. Overall it was much more comfortable weather. The next few days are forecast to be in the seventies with plenty of sunshine and lower humidity.

A Slow Day in the Middle of the Week

Wednesday April 6th 2022

It was another warm day with high humidity and wind out of the south. The clouds were thick enough to hide the sun more often than they allow the sunshine to reach the ground. The temperature peaked around ninety degrees. The cold front with the potential for severe weather arrives tomorrow.

Interesting wildflower blossom.
Even the river was having a lazy day.

Perhaps it was the heat and humidity or just my mood, but it was hard to get motivated today. I spent extra time finishing my breakfast coffee and catching up on my internet reading. My quasi plan to make a grocery run was abandoned for today. I started my first walk of the day well after the noon hour. The alligators and wading birds may have been in a similar mood. They were few and far between today. I think the absence of continues bright sun kept the alligators off the river bank and in the more constant temperature of the river water.

It is interesting to listen to people’s reactions to the alligators they see. In particular they can’t seem to get a handle on size. I am clearly not an alligator expert, but I have picked up a few facts from trusted sources over the years. What I would consider average gators are often exclaimed as big or huge by other people. When a truly big gator is in view they often declare it’s length to be eight or nine feet. In my view most of the full grown gators in the river are seven to nine feet long and some of the big ones are near twelve feet long. The small, young ones, don’t seem to hang out in the river with the big ones. This is the start of mating season, so the big males won’t tolerate the smaller males well. They can get aggressive.

I Found the Rosetta Spoonbills

Tuesday April 5th 2022

There was a strong wind out of the south today. It helped keep the outside temperature a little more comfortable than Monday. Overall the high temperature was near ninety with plenty of humidity.

Ready to escape into the river.

Today I drove deeper into the park in search of the elusive wading birds. At the boardwalk designed to aid bird watching near the north end of the lake all I found were tourists. The birds were nowhere to be found. In the past there have been many varieties of birds out in the lake. I walked out to the end of the boardwalk looked around for birds and walked back in just like all the tourists.

Rosetta Spoonbills

My other stop was at the concessionaire area in the park. The boat rides into the lake are not running because of the low water level and the tram ride only runs on the weekend. They were doing some business renting bicycles, but I didn’t see anyone renting kayaks or canoes. The low water level is also an obstacle to paddling.

Since I was here in December a major watershed restoration project has been completed. They removed the weir at the entrance to the Myakka River that attempted to keep the water level constant in the lake. It had been mostly bypassed in recent years, but a major project during the first part of this year removed all of the old weir, regraded the river banks in the area and allowed for the free flow of water into the river. The alligators that used to congregate in the area have moved to other areas. They may return with higher water levels. The wildlife that hasn’t moved is all the Rosetta Spoonbills that hang out in a set of trees on the far side of the river close to the location of the old weir. The trees were full of the pink and white birds.

Great Blue Heron
A pair of Limpkins grabbing supper.

Later in the day walking to the river from my campsite I found a few more birds. A Great Blue Heron seemed to be posing for my camera. One minute it was looking right at me from the far bank and the next it was giving me a left profile picture followed by a right. Near the bridge over the river on the main park road a pair of Limpkins were busy foraging for food between pauses to squawk at each other. Alligators continue to be everywhere along the river.

Wandering Along the Banks of the Myakka River

Monday April 4th 2022

The temperature is in the high eighties, the humidity is high and there is very little breeze. Those three things add up to a hot and sticky day. Even so, I got my exercise in wandering along the banks of the Myakka River.

The low river level makes it easier to access some of the areas along the river, but you have to be careful. The grassy river banks also make ideal places for the alligators to warm in the sun. Lower water levels also concentrate the gators around the deep water holes. There are many more alligators in view today than last December.

The bird population is just the opposite. There seem to be fewer wading birds around. I haven’t seen any Rosetta Spoonbills, Egrets or Ibis so far this visit. The absence of spoonbills doesn’t surprise me but the egrets and ibis are ubiquitous in most of Florida. There are several pairs of noisy Limpkins that you can’t ignore. By far the most prevalent type of birds are the herons. Great Blue Heron and Tricolor Herons are the most common larger bird species I’ve been observing.

The following collection of pictures is intended to provide an idea of the beautiful sights I’ve been seeing.

Getting Back into Myakka River State Park Relaxation Mode

Sunday April 3rd 2022

It rained off and on all night. This morning it slowly transitioned to a cloudy day that threatened to turn to rain at any minute. The temperature stayed in the sixties most of the morning and only reached the low seventies by the end of the day. The weather wanted to remind me I’m not in South Florida anymore.

The river seems to be about three feet below the normal high level.

It addition to finishing most of the setup tasks for a two week stay, I got in one long walk to the Myakka River and back. The water level is definitely lower than it was in December. Areas that were underwater are now vast fields of tall green grass. The lower water level defines the main channel of the river clearly. It is a different location that I thought.

Alligator swimming in the river.

This morning there the wind wasn’t blowing keeping the surface of the water still and reflective. With the temperature in the sixties the alligators were still in the water with only their heads above water. From the bridge I counted twelve on one side and eight on the other. I don’t recall seeing that many from the bridge before. Some of the other places the alligators hand out during higher water levels are probably dry now.

The birds weren’t plentiful, but a few heron were around and one solitary turkey wadered in one of the dry river bed areas. I’m not used to seeing a turkey all alone. Usually when you see one, you see many.

A single Turkey.

I am looking forward to walking the trails along the river when the sun is out. The birds should be out of the trees and the gators should be taking the sun on the bank. The forecast calls for gradual improvement over the next couple of days with another cold front arriving on Thursday.

Travel Back to Myakka River State Park

Saturday April 2nd 2022

I woke this morning to a campground shrouded in a thick fog. Yesterday’s humidity was still very present. It was after nine before the fog gave way to a bright sunny day.

Today was a travel day. I prefer not to travel on Saturday’s, but that was how the reservation search worked out last May when the booking window opened. My attempts to get a reservation from the twenty ninth on finally resulted in success on the 2nd. As a consequence my next two moves are also on a Saturday.

I was ready to travel long before I needed to depart. It is always a timing challenge to make sure you don’t arrive before the previous occupants of the site have departed. I departed the Midway Campground in Big Cypress National Preserve shortly after 11AM and arrived around 2PM at Myakka River State Park.

Traffic was heavy on Interstate 75. The stretch from Naples to Fort Meyers was filled with lots of entering and exiting traffic and a few impatient drivers weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to get to their destination a few seconds before the rest of the traffic. Even the stretch of road from Fort Meyers to Sarasota had plenty of traffic, but with fewer exits the volume was a little better behaved.

I made one stop in Fort Meyers for gas. Two hundred plus dollars later, I had added a little more than fifty gallons to fill the tank. The price per gallon was reasonable compared to what I paid in the Miami suburbs on Monday, but compared to last year gas prices are crazy.

As I traveled north the bright sun gave way to hazy sunshine and eventually full cloud cover. The latest cold front to pass over Florida has been fixed over the middle of the state. The Tampa area across through Orlando and on to the east coast has had severe weather all day. As I’m writing this blog entry the rain has started here. It isn’t forecast to be severe, but is forecast to last off and on all night.

Site 54 at Myakka River State Park.

I’m at Myakka River State Park east of Sarasota for the next two weeks. I’m on the same campsite I had in December. A quick wander around the park indicates that the water level is a lot lower than December. This is the near the end of the dry period in Florida. The park also seems to be less busy. I didn’t find a line at the entrance station and I think there are a few empty sites in the campground. I’ll explore more over the next couple of weeks.

Last Day in South Florida this Winter

Friday April 1st 2022

The weather trend toward more hot and humid weather continues in this area. The temperature peaked around 90 degrees. Outside there was enough wind that it was tolerable, but the temperature inside my RV home, even with the windows open and the fans blowing was very uncomfortable.

Wildflower of the day.

This is my last day in South Florida this winter. I’ve been in the Big Cypress Preserve or Everglades National Park since the fourteenth of the month. I’ve seen plenty of alligators and birds. Tomorrow I’m moving north about one hundred and seventy miles to the Sarasota area. I’ll be at Myakka River State Park for the next two weeks. There should be plenty of alligators and birds there as well.

The weather conditions in the central and northern part of the state haven’t been as nice as I’ve experienced in South Florida. The various cold fronts that have passed west to east have dropped a lot more rain from central Florida north. There was a tornado warning this morning in the greater Orlando area and a tornado touched down the day before in the panhandle. I hope things have cleared out a little as I move into those areas.

I’ll be back in this area again next winter. That wasn’t part of my original plan, but as I struggled to find reservations in Florida State Parks, I found more success as I moved further south. This area has a lot to offer in the way of interesting terrain and wildlife. The only down side is the need to drive to the different areas. Not a lot is in walking distance of any of the places to stay.

Today I drove back to the Oasis Visitors Center. There are a very large number of alligators in the canal in front of the visitors center. I don’t think they stocked the canal with gators, but they did make the habitat very attractive. There is a combination of deep water, shallow water and side banks for taking in the sun. I counted more than twenty alligators this afternoon, but some were moving so my count might be off.

Bug of the day.

I plan to get on the road around 11AM, so I don’t get to my destination before checkout time for the current occupants. The expected challenges along the way include finding a stop for gas and the possibility of running into a thunderstorm or two. I need to do my Google Maps investigation on gas station access before I got to bed tonight.