Of all the sunrises I have had the good fortune to witness in my life, this morning's exquisite transition of night to day was the most stunning. What a sensory experience; so rich that I am challenged to find the words to describe it...
We were on the Anhinga Trail at 6:30 AM. Stars were shining in the night sky and a powerful crescent moon illuminated the walking path. From previous visits here, I am familiar with the observation platform that is cantilevered over a fresh water pond at the end of the sturdy boardwalk. I'll admit that walking to the platform accompanied by the sounds of the approaching dawn -- roaring alligators, large splashing noises, frogs croaking -- was a bit intimidating, but I crept along slowly, savoring the intense auditory stimulation. The water level in the Everglades is low in April making this an amazing time to be here, because the low water brings a plethora of wildlife to the fewer existing water holes and ponds, as opposed to November for instance, when there is so much more water that the alligators and birds can spread out for miles and miles.
My skin was goose-bumpy from the dawn dew, my nose was twitching in response to the rich earthy smells permeating the air, and my eyes were adjusting to the slowly changing light. It was a complete sensory experience. Little did I know what was yet to come.
At the end of the platform, I stood quietly in the ever-lightening dawn. Oh-so-slowly, one bird called out, then another, and another. Each bird song was different, then louder and different again, and persistent, and soft, and strong, and high-pitched, then twilling, then sweet, then shrill, then melodic until it all blended into a cacophony of sound the likes of which I had never heard. The power of the bird music was nearly overwhelming and as it blended with the noise of hundreds of wings and the light continued to shift to reveal dozens of various shapes and sizes of birds flying and feeding and flirting and frolicking. I saw wood storks, black ibis and white ibis, green heron, little blue heron and great blue heron and the prized black capped night heron, cattle egrets, white egrets, and snowy egrets. As the sky continued to lighten up, I was struck by the sweetness of a bird song that was unfamiliar to me...I searched all around with my binoculars for it's owner... and was rewarded by a gorgeous red cardinal and his intended, in their mating ritual.
I heard red winged blackbirds, anhingas, cormorants, and woodpeckers. Birds were on the move, welcoming the new day with their lovely songs and calls. For several minutes I just stood there with my eyes closed and let the powerful sounds of nature wash over me. And did I say that the alligators were chiming in? They were rolling in the water, snapping at fish and frogs, bellowing in their perpetual turf battle, but also in search of their mate for the season; April in the Everglades may be dry but it is springtime after all, and love is in the air.
20 minutes later -- it was over. The air was still, the birds were gone from their roosting places in the trees, the alligators dispersed for deeper water perhaps, and the pond was calm once again. Quiet settled in as the clouds on the horizon became pink and orange, then white against the now blue sky.
I felt as if I had been gifted this incredibly rich and intimate sunrise -- one that had touched me deeply with it's splendor -- an everyday occurrence in nature, but a truly unique personal experience for me.
(google the Anhinga Trail--it's worth the look).