roseate spoonbill

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.

Life is Good At Myakka

Life is Good At Myakka

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

Because the Myakka River has gone down significantly, I was wondering how MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK looked and whether the alligators were out and about.  I first checked out my favorite trail since that's where I see the biggest alligators.  The woods were relatively dry and the trail was pretty clear in the beginning.

Up ahead I could see a huge flock of roseate spoonbills hanging out on the other side of the river.  Because I wanted to get some closer shots of them, I continued down the path trying to avoid all the debris that seemed to have found its way into the woods.  Eventually the trail was blocked by some tree limbs that had cracked off a nearby tree.

Because I wanted a better shot of the birds, off the trail I went and into the poison ivy I stepped.  "I better get a really nice shot," I thought as I gingerly stepped over one plant to find myself next to another.  As I made my way back to the trail, up ahead I could hear a bird screeching out my arrival to his buddies.  Fortunately the spoonbills stayed and I was able to get off a few shots.

I still wasn't close enough to get the shot I wanted.  On I continued as my noisy buddy continued to herald my arrival by his incessant screeching.  "If I could only get a little closer..." I thought.  "If that bird would only shut up...."  Just then I noticed why he had been screeching.  He wasn't warning the spoonbills.  He was warning the two alligators who were hanging out on MY side of the river.

Because they were too near the shoreline, I ceded the territory to them and headed back.  I figured I would find something else to photograph.  It wasn't too long before I noticed that some alligators had surfaced and a few had made their way to the opposite side of the river.  There they were enjoying the sun and the gentle breezes.  One was particularly photogenic so I snapped away....

I next decided to drive down the main road of the park to check out how the fields were looking.  It was amazing to see the change.  The water had receded and mud or dirt lay in its stead.

Because the park was going through its metamorphoses from wet to dry, the deer were there to nibble on the emerging young grasses.

Since they looked as though they needed to graze in peace, I left them and drove a little bit further along the road.  To my amazement, I encountered an alligator slumbering right beside the road.  He seemed to be at peace with the world as he hugged the bank and exhibited his dreamy "life is good" look that I sometimes see on Myakka's alligators.

Life MUST be pretty good for these alligators because this alligator had nothing on his plate except sleep and an occasional happy smile.

The Power Behind a Smile

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The Power Behind a Smile

Guest Post by Nancy Dobias

The other day when I went to Myakka River State Park, I happened upon some roseate spoonbills deep in discussion as to how one of their kind might assume the PLACE OF HONOR among their wildlife neighbors. Rosalia, in particular, was fed up with having to take second billing to the many alligators languishing along the muddy banks or slowly patrolling the waters of the Myakka.

"No one will find a more photogenic model than me!" she proclaimed.  Back and forth, back and forth she strutted.  "Surely someone will notice my beautiful pink and white combo," she thought.  "Certainly I am more appealing than those dull colors on Gerta Gator!" Rosalia lamented.

"Why don't we go over to the muddier waters?" suggested Phil.  "That's where the tourists go when they're looking for Gerta Gator!  What's more, the deeper contrast of our colors against the darker background will certainly work in your favor.   When we show up, Rosalia, I just know YOU will upstage her!" 

What a duo this pair was!  As soon as they arrived, they immediately began vigorously thrusting their spoon-shaped bills into the mud,  Mud was being flung everywhere, but they seemed to be achieving the effect that they wanted.  Rosalia's pink and white combo were looking REALLY good!

"I never realized it would take so much work to be noticed," Rosalia complained.  "Look at that man with the camera over there!  Why isn't he looking at ME?  What does Gerta Gator have that I don't have?" she whined.

"Perhaps it's her teeth," suggested Phil.  "She DOES have magnificent teeth... I bet if you had teeth just like her, YOU would be the star you were destined to be!" insisted Phil.  "Look at those teeth!  You're just a few teeth away from stardom!!  If you would get some dental implants, you could upstage that alligator TODAY!" proclaimed Phil.

As I listened to the duo debate how best to attract the cameras away from the very toothy appeal of Gerta Gator, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so important for Rosalia to be front and center, why couldn't she just be happy as she was. 

Rosalia was already quite attractive.  Did she really need teeth to upstage Gerta?   I tried to picture Rosalia with her dream teeth but a "new and improved" image was definitely escaping me.

Too bad I have no idea what Rosalia finally decided.  It was time for me to bid adieu to this unusual duo.  Who knows...maybe after I left, more visitors stopped to take notice of her lovely pink and white combo and she finally had the cameras pointing at HER!  If you see Rosalia before I do, take some pictures.  I would love to know what she finally decided.