alligators

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....)

Strutting With the Turkeys

Strutting With the Turkeys

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Talk about strutting your stuff.  That's exactly what I witnessed when I came upon a flock of turkeys at Myakka River State Park.  I had just gotten to the split and turned in the direction of the boat launch/canoe livery when several hens came trotting out of the field, across the road and into the campgrounds.  By the time I stopped my car, they were gone, but still in the field was MR. HOT-TO-TROT and a few of his lucky admirers.

He must have been feeling pretty good as he strutted magnificently in and among the girls.  I could see them whispering to one another how cute he was. Dropping his wings down to allow his primary wing feathers to touch the ground and then lifting his tail and fanning it out in all its glory was broadcasting to the ladies, "I'm the MAN!"  This is also called a STRUT and is how a male turkey meets his women.

It was certainly evident that this was one turkey who knew how to "work it" and since I was standing between him and his harem on my side of the road, I felt it best to leave so he could take his strut and work his magic among interested parties on my side of the road as well.

My next stop was the weir and a kindly woodstork was the first to announce my arrival. A snowy egret wasn't at all interested in making my acquaintance and in fact, gave me a rather "chilly" reception.

However, the roseate spoonbills looked as though they might be in a playful mood and appreciate some company but they were so far away that it wasn't practical to engage with them.  Who knows, maybe it was all just an act anyway.

It was getting too busy to find out, so my last stop was to at least check on the alligators along my favorite trail.  It was still early in the morning and I wasn't sure if I'd find many out on the banks, but I did see a few.  Because I had noticed an alligator swimming down the river, I knew I could get a nicer vantage point with the sun in a better position if I just went up a few more yards and photographed the other one already out on the bank.  I continued down the trail another ten to twenty yards and took the next cleared area to the river.

It's not a launch area for a kayak.  It's just a viewing area to better see the river or any alligators which might be out and about.  To my surprise, there WAS one out and about and he was NOT on the other side of the river.  He was RIGHT BELOW ME!  At first I thought it was a log.  My second look said, "Whoa....Alligator...."   I managed to get 2 quick shots before I high-tailed it out of there--no strutting for me!!

Sure was glad this alligator did not feel threatened.

Only in Florida

Only in Florida

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

When you think you have heard everything, there is always one more story that blows your mind.  This past weekend Larry was at a NEST meeting and while there he talked with a man about the Circle B Bar Reserve.  The man grew up in the area and was quite familiar with this park.  He recalled being at the park one time when the weather had turned cooler and the alligators were acting rather dormant.  In fact, they were so lethargic, that some tourists thought an alligator they encountered was FAKE.  When he saw the tourists, they were attempting to take pictures with the supposed "fake" alligator.  He told them to get away from the animal, that it was dangerous what they were doing.  The tourists ignored him and continued posing with the alligator, leaning their elbows on the alligator.  As far as they were concerned, the alligator was not moving; therefore, it was fake.  He again told them that this is Florida.  This is the swamp.  Florida doesn't need fake alligators.  This alligator is REAL.  They continued to ignore his warnings.  He walked away shaking his head.  He did not want to be there when that alligator warmed up.

Today I went to Myakka River State Park to see how the alligators were doing, whether they were hanging out on the banks of the river or whether the river was still too flooded for that to happen.  The river is starting to recede and since it was a humid day, the alligators were taking advantage of every dry area they could find.  Basking in the sun was high on their list of priorities.

Although they're generally on the other side of the river, one had even found his special place on my side of the river.  Naturally a limpkin forewarned him that I was coming and I guess that is why he was not startled when I came upon him.   (I appreciated the warning too!)

A few still hadn't found their perfect spots and were still cruising the river waiting for one to magically appear. I did see a cluster of four or five up around the bend on the other side of the river, but in trying to get a better picture of them, I ended up spooking them and scared all but two back into the river.  Too bad that Spanish moss interfered with my shot.  When I tried to get a better shot, even these two wanted nothing to do with me and they too entered the water.

Because I had screwed up their day in the sun, I figured I should just leave them alone and wait for a warmer day.  Then they might not mind an unexpected dip in the river.

A Perfect Stick or a Perfect Plan

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A Perfect Stick or a Perfect Plan

Gust Post by Nancy Dobias

For all those who get used to alligators being in a particular place, think again.  On one of the Myakka River State Park trails that we walk, alligators are typically on the other side of the river.  I assumed they were drawn to its sunnier location.  Saturday, however, they were on OUR side of the river.  Larry and I encountered our first "trespasser" slightly away from where some men were fishing along the shore.

Because they had discarded a very tiny fish along the trail, I checked to see if he were still alive.  He was.  Larry gently picked him up, cradled him in his hand and then proceeded to look for a safe place to introduce him back into the waters of the Myakka.  We expected that to be easy; get away from the alligator awaiting his free lunch, find an easy spot for the soft "toss" into the river, and life would be good.  Well, Larry found his perfect spot.  Gently he "tossed" the fish back into the water and back onto the shore the fish flipped!  A problem for sure!  He couldn't go down to the river's edge to retrieve the fish since alligators were hanging out on our side of the river.

He needed a long stick.  When there were no long enough branches to flip the fish back into the river, Larry went off in search of the PERFECT STICK.  In the meantime, the alligators were wondering what I intended to do.  "Did I have food or was I food?" they must have been contemplating..

Closer and closer they approached the shoreline.  I was above them, on top of the bank, maintaining eye contact with their eyes and occasionally with what their back-end might be doing.   My plan was to telegraph that I was a fellow predator.

My well-considered telepathy thoughts were not getting through though.  Closer and closer they edged out of the water while down the trail Larry sought the perfect stick.

Because the alligators were getting a little too close to where Larry would be when he returned with his perfect stick, I called out to him to be alert, that he had "friends" awaiting his return.  As Larry made his way back, the alligators must have sensed a possible danger coming.  Quietly they backed slightly away from the shoreline, sinking a little below the surface of the river and there they waited.

Larry, however, had other things on his mind.  Armed with THE PERFECT STICK, Larry had a fish to rescue.  He immediately went to work searching out the gymnast fish who was particularly adept at back flips.  Larry scanned right, he scanned left...no little guy.  He looked again.  Finally he lay down his perfect stick and backed away from the river, happy that the fish had rescued himself.

It's good to be a gymnast kind of fish...one dynamic flip...and THE PERFECT PLAN can come together!  Of course the alligators WERE a tad bit annoyed that no free lunch was forthcoming.