The other night, we made our way out to Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge where thousands of birds return to roost every night. They return to their designated trees in the mangroves around sunset. We arrived shortly before sunset and made our way down the Marsh Trail to watch them fly in.
When we arrived, we could see some early arrivals already settled in the trees, but by the time we left (just after the sunset but before it got too dark and creepy), the trees were full. While we saw several kinds of birds, the ibis was the primary species, and their white feathers stood out vividly among the green trees. We found a place along the trail that was one of the primary routes for birds returning to the mangroves, so we were able to watch them fly directly overhead.
The sounds of the everglades are incredible, and the cacophony of bird calls that continued to crescendo as more and more birds arrived was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I really tried not to think about what the place would look and sound like in the hours after our visit and preferred not to acknowledge the many other species of animals and insects (including the huge spiders we saw weaving intricate webs) that were lingering just feet from the trail.
Our Little Bird did not know quite what to make of our evening outing, but she went along with it and was delighted to find rocks and leaves and the usual treasures along the trail. It was not until the birds started coming in consistently that she really even noticed them, but she squawked right along with them and started pointing them out as they flew overhead.
On our way back to the truck, we climbed the small overlook to see the vast marsh and mangroves around us. The sunset was truly gorgeous from up there, and it was incredible to be above the trees and to see birds continuing to flock in from every direction.
We had an unforgettable time witnessing this daily act of nature, and I am already looking forward to the next time we can return. If you are ever near Naples, Marco Island, or Everglades City, this short evening activity is a must (just remember your bug spray!).