alligators

A Harley in the Myakka?

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A Harley in Myakka?

Guest post by Nancy Dobias

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you just never know what you'll see or experience when you pay a visit to Myakka River State Park.  This morning, as I was counting the number of alligators visible downstream, I happened to notice one of them look as though he might begin a courtship ritual.

His head was arcing above the water, his snout was pointing to the heavens and he was puffing out his jaw.  I figured next on his agenda would be to dip his body under water to blow out the air bubbles but before I could witness the "water dance," a loud roar of a Harley caused me to turn to the side to see why a motorcycle might be reving his engine on the bridge.

To my utter amazement, the "Harley" was the alligator that had been sleeping on the other side of the bridge but had been awakened out of his slumber by the challenge of this other alligator having the audacity to court one of his nearby lady friends.  In powerful strokes, "Harley" quickly made it under the bridge and was now bellowing out his dominance of the river.  Once his bellows was sounded, down he dipped and the water dance began.

Then, back up "Harley" roared and this time he lunged higher.  He was the KING OF THE RIVER.  He would tolerate no challengers.  To prove his worth, back down he went to once more perform his water dance to all his admiring ladies.

As I watched "Harley" demonstrate his manhood to all his admirers, I couldn't help but notice how proud HE was of his own performance.

I also looked at his challenger to see if he had gotten the picture and had backed down but unfortunately he was still trying his luck at attracting one of Harley's ladies.

He was good, but he still had a long way to go to challenge a guy like "Harley" and hopefully he waits a few more years before he takes him on.  "Harley" doesn't look like a guy you'd mess with.  There's a reason why he is the solitary KING OF THIS STRETCH OF THE RIVER.

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No doubt Myakka has plenty of other lady alligators who would gladly welcome the interest of a studly King in Waiting.

Do You Really Need a Selfie With and Alligator?

Do You Really Need a Selfie With and Alligator?

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

The other day I was watching a segment on TV about the need for "selfie-free" zones when risky behavior is involved.  Too many people were dying trying to get the "shot of a lifetime."  Today when I went to Myakka River State Park, I witnessed the potential for injury that is inherent in this type of shot.   As I was driving over the bridge, I happened to notice 3 young men attempting to approach an alligator sunning herself on the bank downstream.  The men were within striking distance of the alligator but apparently they didn't consider that a problem.  I don't know if they wanted to touch her or get a picture with her but it looked as though they were hovering rather close to her.  By the time I parked the car and walked to the bridge, the guys had apparently gotten their selfie or whatever they wanted and were long gone.

I was glad.  At least I didn't have to worry about the lunacy of this action since there were several alligators partially submerged in the river near the one on the bank.  After all it WAS courting season. When I got to the bridge and looked upriver, one of Myakka's BIG GUYS was snoozing away and enjoying some quality time along the river.  At least he was.

Within 5 minutes, he had some company approaching him and it wasn't one of his lady-friends. Cautiously the man approached the alligator.  He wanted his "once in a lifetime" shot.

I could not believe the chance this man was taking.  Didn't he know it's courting season for alligators?  He's in that alligator's territory.  He's watching ONE alligator.   How many other alligators in the river are watching HIM???  His vision is limited by the camera in front of his eyes.  He doesn't know what's happening beyond this one alligator.   If this alligator should choose to react to this man's presence in HIS territory, can this man predict when that will happen and be able to anticipate with a FASTER reaction time? 

As I was wondering what is wrong with the people that I was seeing today, I turned back around to the other side of the bridge and lo and behold there were two more people down near the river's edge...right where I had previously seen an alligator rear up and do his courting routine to all the interested lady alligators.  The couple had arrived about 5 minutes after this "dance" and were not aware the alligator had been there but no doubt that alligator was aware that they were there.   I wondered what he thought of this couple's interference in HIS wooing of HIS ladyfriend..... Sure looked risky to me.

Did the Alligators Go to the Gym?

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Now that April is here, I was hoping it would be time for the alligators to be looking for love but as it was, not many were out of the river. I guess some still had beauty shop appointments or gym workouts to keep before they presented themselves as "available."  At least it gave an opportunity for the deer to come out of the woods by the bridge and graze a bit along the river.

Across the road from the Canopy Walk, I did see an alligator hanging out with some of Myakka's birds.  I never realized the alligator was there when I stopped to take pictures of the birds.

It wasn't until I was taking pictures that I noticed the alligator swimming in and among the birds.  There was plenty of fish to go around, so the birds didn't mind the interloper within their midst even if he was a bit devious.

The alligator would do a lazy slow roll with his mouth open and whatever fish happened to "accidentally" swim inside, he innocently swallowed.  Then he swam over to another section of the wetland to do the same maneuver.  I first worried the alligator might hurt the birds, but since he had the motherload of fish swimming into his mouth and keeping him preoccupied and satisfied, the birds were safe.  Maybe the birds had THEIR OWN plan..

Too bad that alligator didn't notice there was a love interest not too far away.  She looked as though she might have been interested if he would have just stopped eating and had come her way, but when I looked back, he was still splashing around and doing that rolling routine.  I guess love was not on his radar.

Speaking of splashing around...when I was at the weir, a roseate spoonbill was taking no chances on finding the bird of her dreams.  Getting her feathers light and fluffy was the first order of the day and it must take a lot of work because this girl was working it.

With the advent of spring and the heart turning to love, attracting the best of the best takes a lot of attention to detail and no feather was left un-fluffed or un-ruffled.  Dressing for success is this girl's mantra.

Too bad a turkey that I saw along the road didn't read that book.  Perhaps he wouldn't look as though he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.  With his head hanging low, making his way through one of Myakka's fields.  I couldn't help but think, "Wow, he looks like he's going to a job that he hates."

He needs to focus on what's right in his world.  Before those words were out of my mouth, that is exactly what he DID do.  Up ahead was the field of HIS dreams.  With a gobble of delight and a jaunty skip to his gait, off that turkey flew to his field of gold and whatever adventures awaited for that turkey is anyone's guess.

In the next few weeks, I imagine more gold will appear in these fields.  Spring has arrived to Myakka River State Park.  Grab a camera and get thee to the park!  Maybe by then, the alligators will be groomed and smiling.

Baby Birds Coming to the Bridge

Baby Birds Coming to the Bridge

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

I went to Myakka River State Park today to see if I'd be lucky enough to see the turkey strutting through the meadow but he was no where to be found. So I continued on to the weir.  Generally I walk through the woods to get to the weir.

Such remarkable beauty to see the oak trees bedecked with the Spanish moss or to even see the soaring palm trees stretching up to get their piece of the sun.

Today I learned something new.  There's another way to get to the weir.  A path has been "carved" through the grasses and runs along the Upper Lake.

It goes right to the base of the weir.  A welcoming party of Vultures and Anhingas will even be there there to greet you and engage you in conversation should you so desire.

I personally love to "talk" with the vultures.  Whether it's a close-up,

or a full-bodied shot, the vultures always seem ready and eager to please. 

I'm not so sure about the wood storks.  I love the wood storks and find them an interesting bird to photograph but I'm not so sure they're operating on "all fours" if they can mosey by an alligator, have the alligator make a half-hearted lunge for having had his sleep disturbed and the only reaction from the wood stork is a slight ruffling of his feathers.

The wood stork apparently finds nothing formidable in an alligator. 

Since we're on the subject of birds, do you ever wonder why some people mistakenly believe that birds would be safer in a world without alligators?  They must think that birds are at the mercy of the alligators who prey on them.  Check out a close-up of this Great Blue Heron.  In his world, no doubt his prey would be trembling at being in HIS sights.  The intensity of the eyes...the sharpness of that beak...sure would hate to be on the receiving end of THAT power.

Personally I think it's important to understand and accept there is room on this planet for all of us.  When you start to point the finger at one species, there could be someone else pointing the finger at you.  It's best to just move over and make room.  

Speaking of that, there is new life that is coming to the bridge.  A Great Blue Heron has made a nest on one of the islands in the middle of the river and is hoping the world will soon make room for her little ones.  I didn't personally notice the nest was there, but one of the volunteers for Friends of Myakka was working at the bridge today and was talking about what visitors could see from the bridge.  I thought she was about to tell me about the alligators or the limpkins but instead she surprised me with the news of the nest.  It just so happened that Mom was on the nest when she pointed out its location but later, Mom lowered herself down into the nest.  The next time you go to Myakka River State Park, bring your binoculars and check out the nest.  Maybe you'll see Mom or maybe the eggs will be hatched and one of the little ones will be peeking up out of the nest but you won't see them without your binoculars.  Look on the canopy side of the river and at least maybe you'll see bedraggled parents coming and going from the nest.

The river is looking mighty pretty at the bridge too.  Bring a camera!!  (Don't forget to photograph the vultures at the weir.  They sometimes feel neglected....)