Interstate Relief: All Natural

There’s something about passengering for 550+ miles for four days in a row that deadens the brain as well as the butt. When this starts to look like scenery, I know it’s time to get off the Interstate, engineering marvel though it may be.

Roadcut scenery in south TexasSo it was with great relief that I passengered for 60 minutes on an airboat on Lake Kissimmee, near Orlando. Billed as a swamp tour, the ride was through what I’d call the marshy shoreline of this central Florida lake. But whatever you call it, it was fabulous, reconnecting me with the natural world.

I saw terns that lifted off the dock and took off. I’ve tried to get sharp, in-flight photos of terns before. Now I settle for recognizable.

Two terns lifting off from dock

I saw several old friends that I’ve photographed many times before: snowy egrets, great blue herons, and alligators. This snowy egret has learned that the airboat roils/riles up the fishes, so it comes right up beside the boat to hunt.

Snowy egret in hunting mode2-photo collage of two great blue herons3-photo collage of allligators

I saw sandhill cranes up close AND in the wild: a lovely combination.

4-photo collage of sandhill cranesI saw the extraordinary glossy ibis with its flexible neck.

2-photo collage of glossy ibisAnd I saw the new-to-me limpkin.

2-photo collage of limpkin in swamp

I even got a fuzzy photo of a kingfisher. They always take off just as I get close enough to identify its distinctive profile – say 100 metres – but at least I can see what it is.

Kingfisher, seriously zoomed and croppedWhat an hour. And I only had to passenger for four days to get to it.


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16 Responses to Interstate Relief: All Natural

  1. Tom Watson says:

    On top of the rock slope on the right hand side, what are the vertical lines? It’s hard to determine. Are they crosses? Or poles? Or cell towers?

    And when you got on the airboat in Florida, did you flip from being a passenger to a passanger? Were you that fed up by then?


    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Tom – I had to zoom hard on the original photo to see, but the vertical bits are the flowers of a cactus I think: my guess is the century plant or agave. They stick way up, the better to distribute seeds far and wide, I guess. And thanks for catching my typo.

  2. Jim Robertson says:

    Looks like a worthwhile ride. I thought the birds et al would scatter when the airboat is around. Guess I figured wrong!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim R – Well, some scattered; others stuck around. We saw lots of swamp hawks (what I would call a Northern harrier, I think) but they never stayed near enough for long enough for me to get a good shot.

  3. Jim Taylor says:

    Loved the photos. Envious of the airboat ride — never had one of those, questionable whether I ever will. But I want to comment about 550-mile Interstate experience, the sort of “highway hypnosis” that settles in. In meditation circles, I’m told to live in the present; don’t think about the past, don’t plan ahead into the future, just live in the present moment. Given my hyperactive brain, that’s difficult to achieve. Where I come closest, I think, is when I can pay attention only to what I’m doing. That happens occasionally cross-country skiing, where I can forget about how long I’ve been out, where I’m going, the landmarks that mark the way, and just ski. And the same thing happens on the highway, where it and I and the vehicle just roll and roll and roll…. I’m there, and I’m not there. I’m going somewhere, and I’m just going. Time and place just fade away. I’m there, that’s all.
    I’m not suggesting this is safe driving, but it’s a certain state of mind.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim T – Interesting. I wonder whether the safety aspect is affected by the level of traffic. Maybe a meditative state would be safe on a simple road with little traffic, but not so much with heavy traffic. And not so doable, either.

  4. barbara says:

    Your photos are so CLEAR! It’s like I’m there. 😀

  5. You are rejoicing in the landscape that greeted me immediately after I married and moved to a wilderness east of Gainsville. The lushness of the vegetation and the massive colonies of birds and other creatures opened a window into the concept of Eden that my Northern consciousness could not have imagined. That “great Leviathan” (referring to the crocodile) I cannot warm to. Yet, the terror of Creation is part of its wonderfulness however difficult to encompass. I am echoing the C.S. Lewis comment I read a few minutes ago that applies equally to your marvelous birds as to your alligators: “Many a man, brought up in the glib profession of some shallow form of Christianity, who comes through reading Astronomy to realise for the first time how majestically indifferent most reality is to man, and who perhaps abandons his religion on that account, may at that moment be having his first genuinely religious experience.”

  6. Beautiful photos! Wondrous encounters! Thank you for taking the care to capture and share such moving photos.

  7. Marilyn Smith says:

    So, about those alligators, Isabel…. I’m wondering just how close you were to take those amazing photos!! Were they baby alligators? Cute little devils! But then, that photo of the alligator from the side, head halfway in the water, appears to show a very docile, friendly animal until you look further and see under the water and that long, long jaw, and the sneaky, subtle side-eye that makes him seem just a little more dangerous. Plus, there’s that slimy object behind him that I don’t want to know more about! What was that?? Really awesome photographs of birds and reptiles in their habitat, and you got all of that in sixty minutes! I was saying “Wow!” a lot as I went through them.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Marilyn – How close? It varied, but between 10 and 20 feet for these photos. We were sitting up about 3 to 4 feet from the deck level of the airboat. We did see baby gators, but my photos were taken sort of back over my shoulder, so not great. And that slimy bit? Not sure, but I saw lots of floating bits that seemed like roots (for the, um, floating vegetation – I am such a nature expert), and think that slimy bit was one such. Pretty sure it was vegetable not animal, anyway.

  8. Barry says:

    Tik-Tok, Tik-Tok

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