Julie, Chelsea and I went on an airboat ride located at Airboat Rides at Midway 28501 E. Colonial Drive, Christmas, FL 32709. The ride lasted an hour and a half and was very interesting and delightful at the same time. The ride took us on St. John’s River in the Central Florida Everglades. Florida is in a severe drought right now causing the water level to be very low. We were fortunate that there were about 7 to 10 inches of water that allowed us to still proceed with the ride.
This photo was taken as we pulled away from the airboat dock.
The American alligator as listed by National Geographic:
The American alligator is a rare success story of an endangered animal not only saved from extinction but now thriving. State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species’ wild population to more than one million and growing today.
One look at these menacing predators—with their armored, lizard-like bodies, muscular tails, and powerful jaws—and it is obvious they are envoys from the distant past. The species, scientists say, is more than 150 million years old, managing to avoid extinction 65 million years ago when their prehistoric contemporaries, the dinosaurs, died off.
American alligators reside nearly exclusively in the freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and marshes of the southeastern United States, primarily Florida and Louisiana……………….
Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They feed mainly on fish, turtles, snakes, and small mammals. However, they are opportunists, and a hungry gator will eat just about anything, including carrion, pets and, in rare instances, humans.
The birds in the above photo are black vultures that were feeding on a dead alligator or carrion. These social raptors were frightened away by the noisy sound of the airboat. As soon as we were out of sight the feasting resumed. (Vultures are often referred to as buzzards but that is an incorrect name for this bird.)
Vultures: Coragyps attratus from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
Two species of vulture occur in Florida, the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus).
Turkey vultures have reddish heads while the heads of black vultures are black. The turkey vulture holds its wings in a slight “V” while soaring, whereas the black vulture’s wings are held straight. The tail of the black vulture is usually more fanned out in flight and is shorter and broader than that of the turkey vulture.
The black vulture flaps its wings more and soars less than its relative. From below it has whitish patches near the tips of the wings, whereas the wings of the turkey vulture lack these patches.
I could not believe how large the alligator’s mouth can stretch. You can definitely understand how a small animal could be devoured by the massive mouth of this reptile. As we saw many cattle grazing along the riverbank we were troubled by the photographed young calf that was getting too close to this alligator. The pilot of the airboat went very close to the alligator to scare off the alligator. Those of us on the airboat did not want to see an unfortunate incident. We were all relieved to see the alligator leave.
The photo above was taken as we were zooming along the water. I was amazed at how fast the alligator could swim. Alligators can swim up to 20 miles an hour and can run up to 11 miles an hour on land. They look heavy and awkward but they really are very agile and swift.
We learned many facts about the area of the St. John’s River and saw a plethora of wild life. It was a great day for an airboat ride in the central Everglades of Florida.