On our second full day in Florida we drove west of Fort Lauderdale, past the yacht brokers, the beautifully landscaped neighborhoods, beyond the golf courses, national chain stores and familiar restaurants. Through the car window, among all this development, you can see a system of canals, levees and control gates that separate new Florida from the Everglades. This has to be one of the most engineered ecosystems on the planet, and a fragile one at that. I don't know much about the subject, but I do know that the Everglades were nearly ruined, have been stabilized begrudgingly, and are now being restored. However the recovery must be managed, as all of man's meddling means it can't yet stand on its own.
Now let me come down off my high horse - and climb into an airboat. Our destination was Sawgrass Recreation Park which offers group and private tours of the Everglades, and is home to a small and somewhat sad zoo.
This is a female boat-tailed grackle, which our captain mentioned was a nuisance bird. I have missed them though. Where I once lived they were a constant presence, as the showier males always try to out-sing and out-display one another.
Was that what we all came to see in the previous picture? I do believe it was.
By this point I could have easily reached over the side of the boat and touched the gator. In fact, I was probably closer than I wanted to be and was recoiling a bit while the other people in the boat were pushing me forward so they could get a better look.
After this he submerged and went on to doing what his kind have been doing for millions of years, and we went on to Ikea.
(Next up: another piece of old Florida)