Earlier this year I traveled to Florida. A quick couple of days in Miami was followed by two days exploring the Everglades before heading down the Keys and eventually out to the Dry Tortugas. At one stop along the keys we encountered two beautiful black birds. The first was a Black Vulture .
There were hundreds of them. Our first clue was in the parking lot, where you could tell the first-time tourists from the seasoned veteran visitors by whether their car was covered by a blue tarp or not. Fully half the cars had tarps designed to protect the vehicles from black vultures. Protection seemed futile, however, as most of the tarps had holes ripped in them, or were pulled largely off the car onto the ground. Black vultures used many of the cars as perches.
Once on the path for the hike it was hard not to step on the vultures. They were everywhere, seemingly undaunted by human presence. Quick to scarf up any dropped morsel, they wandered around your feet, across the paths, and along the edge of the waterways. Not really domesticated, just unconcerned. A far cry from the Turkey Vultures I was used to in the northeast.
The other black bird was the Double-Crested Cormorant. Beautiful plumage and orange chin patch led to its hooked bill.
These birds too were plentiful and unafraid of the humans trudging noisily around them. If you’ve seen a cormorant, it’s likely to have been the Double-Crested.
There were many other birds as well – herons, egrets, ospreys and more. We also saw manatees, alligators, fish and frogs. More on those later.
David J. Kent has been a scientist for over thirty years, is an avid science traveler, and an independent Abraham Lincoln historian. He is the author of Tesla: The Wizard of Electricity (now in its 5th printing) and two e-books: Nikola Tesla: Renewable Energy Ahead of Its Time and Abraham Lincoln and Nikola Tesla: Connected by Fate. His book on Thomas Edison is due in Barnes and Noble stores in spring 2016.