A short drive from anywhere in Florida takes you to a park with a lake. A lake in Florida takes you to another world. It is a prehistoric world where primitive birds and alligators quietly coexist. In the dregs of summer, this stunning scenery can become almost commonplace.
Under a sky full of floating clouds, a vast lake spreads out. At first glance, you may think you spot a snake slithering in the water, but before you can take a photograph, this unique creature abruptly flies up to a nearby bank. The bird’s wings spread like Batman’s to dry in the sun. Known affectionately as a “snake bird,” it is an anhinga. It can completely submerge under the water to fish.
These waterbirds have fanlike tails that resemble a turkey’s tail. Adult male anhingas are black with silvery to white streaks on the back and wings. Females have a pale tan head, neck, and breast.
Another squint at the lake shows you the subtle outline of an alligator’s head. Perfectly still, this giant predator silently stalks prey. It has been said that “every lake in Florida has a gator.” This continues to ring true.
In the wetland area near the shore, a collection of ibises wades looking for crayfish and crabs. Their skinny legs move quickly through the shallow water, and their curved orange bills probe the muddy surface below. In ancient Egyptian society, this bird was thought to be sacred and was supposed to preserve the country from plagues and serpents.
I hear songbirds chirping in the distance and cicadas under my feet. I realize there is sweat pouring down my neck, and it is time to return to civilization.
BIO: Dr. Sarah Smith grew up in a small town in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. She received her Bachelor of Arts at the University of Notre Dame and her Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine from Ohio University. She now lives in Tampa where she practices Family Medicine. She spends most of her free time with her husband and two boys. She enjoys writing, reading, traveling, and swimming.
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