I was so enraptured by my first trip to Myakka River State Park, that I felt a longing to return a few days later. I chose to visit at the 8 am opening. There were only a few other people at that hour. I drove 5 miles an hour through the park with the windows open so that, perhaps, I would be able to see or hear wild pig or deer walking through the forest. Many trees are covered with the iconic Spanish moss, an air plant which receives nutrients and water through its surface.
Alligators can be seen basking on the banks of the Myakka River. From afar, they look like logs. It is really thrilling to see this prehistoric creature, not far from people in the park.
Alligators sometimes swim together, during mating times, as well as touching snouts. Males can be observed putting their heads on the backs of females. At times of high-density congregations, alligators sometimes engage in the cooperative feeding of fish, though they are usually solitary. They can live to be as old as 75 years.
Photo Credit: http://www.thenaturalistsnotebook.com/our-blog/roseate-spoonbills-in-south-carolina https://www.researchgate.net/publication/288808711_Nocturnal_behaviour_of_American_Alligator_Alligator_mississippiensis_in_the_wild_during_the_mating_season
At the end of the “bird walk,” reached by a short wooden bridge over a grassy area, there were usually 2 or 3 bird watchers with high-powered scopes, focused on a specific area. They are very generous about offering to let others see through the scopes,which are on tripods. I was able to observe Blue-winged Teal, Glossy Ibis, Short-billed Dowitcher, Golden Eagles and Caspian Terns. I would never have been able to see these birds without the help of a scope. I regretted not having my binoculars with me. A mistake I will never make again.
Without the help of binoculars, I was able to watch Roseate Spoonbills, sifting below the surface of the water with their spoon-like beaks, in a back and forth motion, to feed on shrimp, small fish, snails, mollusks, as well as insects. Roseate Spoonbills are very rare in the park. I also saw Great Egrets, Ospreys, a pair of Sandhill Cranes, Great Blue Herons, Black Vultures, and Cormorants fishing underwater.
The only snag in my otherwise sublime visit was the incongruous presence of alligator meat on the menu in the park cafeteria. Especially since next door was a boat tour to see nature, including alligators. I shared my opinion on this subject and hope that in time public outcry will compel them to take these endearing reptiles off the menu.
Chris Arenella has lived and travelled in more places than we can count. She is also formally studying more about nature and wildlife at the wonderful courses offered by the New York Botanical Garden.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Wildlife Watch is changing its policy of not promoting places to visit where hunting is allowed. We will instead be letting our members and readers know about these otherwise wonderful areas and encourage everyone to make their feelings known via letters to the editor, politicians, and the parks themselves that hunting and trapping and using the wildlife as food has no place in a civilized society, and can ruin the experience of people who are visiting te park.
Sadly, Myakka State Park allows hunting.
See their website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/myakka-river-state-park