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Weekly Photo Challenge: Love

It doesn’t take much to find love on an excursion into the natural world — which is why I escape to its beauty as much as humanly possible.

Heart Tree at Fern Forest Nature Center

Heart Tree at Fern Forest Nature Center

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Great Blue Heron Mating Pair at their Nest in the Florida Wetlands

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center

Mating Viceroy Butterflies (Limenitis archippus), Fern Forest Nature Center

We’re approaching breeding season for our gators (these were scenes of last year’s cuddles — a very recent mom and dad). Interestingly, recent studies have shown that up to 70 percent of alligator females remained with their partner — often for many years.

Breeding begins in the spring (mid-April through May), and you can hear their loud bellows throughout the swamps — calls used to attract mates and to warn off other males. While (like all wildlife) gators don’t want to bother humans, the mating season isn’t the time to push your luck — aggression is at a higher level, and they may become more territorial. It’s always wise to be aware of the season. Alligator courtship is complex — vocalizations, head-slapping on the water’s surface, body posturing, snout and back rubbing, bubble blowing, and pheromone (scent) signals all play into the process.

Alligator Pair in the Florida Wetlands

Alligator Love in the Florida Wetlands

Alligator Pair in the Florida Wetlands

Alligator Pair

Alligator Pair in the Florida Wetlands

Cuddles

61 Comments Post a comment
  1. your ‘series’ of the great blue herons is stunning! they are all amazing, and of course i know why – you have to love; to become that subject matter, and your spirit certainly merges with the gbh species!
    your posts are a feast for the eyes and spirit.
    z

    January 31, 2013
    • What an extremely kind, and insightful thing to say… THANK YOU!!! You are so right, though — I probably should have said how much love I have for Nature, in every little thing I see. But that’s pretty obvious. 🙂 Thanks so much again, for your wonderful thoughts and words….

      January 31, 2013
      • you are so welcome! suffice to know that you have one subscriber who always treasures your posts!

        January 31, 2013
      • ✿♥✿♥!!!!

        January 31, 2013
  2. Ahhhhhh…….gator love. Wonderful photos as always. We escape to nature along with you.

    January 31, 2013
    • They were so adorable… At first, I was quite afraid for momma (her little babies were at my feet!), but then… LOVE! 🙂

      Thanks so much!! I’m thrilled to share all this love and beauty.

      January 31, 2013
  3. This post is so cute and just in time for Valentine’s Day!! I just noticed that you put the fairy picture on your banner. So funny because when I did the post about Isawein with her moth wings I used a verse by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite who was the very one who drew your fairy picture. Ida was Australian and lived from 1888 to 1960. She illustrated children’s books and was best known for her pictures of fairies. They are dear aren’t they!!

    January 31, 2013
    • I ADORE Ida. Just adore her — as well as so many other classic fairy artists of the period.

      It’s funny timing — you and your post, eh? My friend had been working on this for me this week… I particularly loved this Outhwaite piece, because of the fairy over what appears to be an Everglades-like scene. Plus, she has dark hair. Not very common for fairies. 🙂 So it’s Audubon and fairies: A great balance and representation of me, heh!

      January 31, 2013
  4. Just love your “heart” tree. Isn’t it great to find these natural shapes in nature?

    The mating Blue Herons are wonderful. What an amazing capture. Great job. 😉

    January 31, 2013
    • Isn’t that wonderful?? I can’t take credit for finding it, my former partner discovered it, tucked away in the woods!! So perfect!

      Thanks so much — I’m fortunate to be near some amazing rookeries, with fantastic opportunities to capture such scenes. 🙂

      January 31, 2013
  5. I’m really captured by the herons. Exquisite. I can feel them.

    January 31, 2013
    • Aren’t they just sublime? They had been building the nest, together — the males and females take part in this task — and they took a break. That’s when I snapped this. So very lovely….

      January 31, 2013
  6. It’s not often you see alligators together. Love the great blue heron couple!

    January 31, 2013
    • SO very true! Not like this, anyways. When he approached her, I was a bit concerned — the babies were at my feet, very young ones. But then…. Cuddles! All was well, phew. 🙂 And he just swam off afterwards.

      January 31, 2013
  7. LOVING your captures – nothing better than gater LOVE:) Happy Thursday

    January 31, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! It’s so unusual (even for me, with as many of ’em as I see) to stumble upon such a scene. I was thrilled… And with their babies at my feet!

      January 31, 2013
  8. Had no idea alligators would stay with their partners. That’s lovely. Adore that tree!

    January 31, 2013
    • Isn’t that just wonderful? To me, it’s yet another notch in breaking their stereotypes… monogamous (to a degree, at least), GREAT mothers, quite shy…. 🙂

      LOVE that tree. How perfect, and it was so hidden in the woods, too…..

      January 31, 2013
  9. I can’t blame the alligators for not wishing to be interrupted when they are in the mood for courtship. I imagine it’s like having people stare at you when you’re preparing for a date.

    January 31, 2013
    • Hahahah! SO true. I always say that when I’m out and about hiking, and snapping away… What you say so wittily ties in to the ethics of wildlife photography. My goal is to cause no bother or anxiety whatsoever to the critters I encounter: and if I see any, I leave IMMEDIATELY. As you say: would you like someone in your house, up in your business with a camera? 🙂

      January 31, 2013
  10. Great post! It is that time of year. Got a shot of a loving ‘gator couple yesterday near Lake Kissimmee which I’ll post soon. Beautiful Heron image!

    January 31, 2013
    • It REALLY is getting to be that time of the year! On my hike this past weekend, the gators were extremely antsy… Much more so than usual. All of ’em! Seems a bit early, but hey. It is what it is. 🙂 I’m on guard, heh.

      Thanks so very much!

      January 31, 2013
  11. jimbey #

    …. Wow! Serenity Spell has an Adults Only section! And ya know, I just came inside after witnessing my two resident Red-tailed Hawks going at it. Love is in the air!
    …. There was no (visible) gator love today. Of course it is FREEZING cold (63) and blustery (10mph wind), so the gators stayed in the water. I did manage to score a Black-crowned AND a Yellow-crowned Night Heron today (Palmetto and Rookery). Heh heh – yeah, I just had to go back before they lock the gates tonight.

    January 31, 2013
    • Hahaha! I should have titled it “Rated R Showing…” 🙂

      Ah, such a gorgeous day for a hike! So lucky you made it out there… And saw a Yellow-crowned, really? Really? Well, maybe someone will see one as I’ll snapping a @(#@ ibis.

      January 31, 2013
      • jimbey #

        …. Every day is a good day for hiking – but it was a lousy day, relatively speaking. Wind-driven drizzle, and frost-bite cold. So cold, I almost went back for a jacket. 🙂
        …. I saw a number of anhinga nests with fledgelings, and a GBH nest across the pond from the first leg of the Halloween Trail. It looks like the bulk of the wood storks are settled in now for the duration (very little nest building activity), and safely tucked out of sight and disturbance. There were no gators on the banks (too cold), but plenty in the water. I saw your buddy with the lopsided grin drive off a smaller competitor – for the gators, we are almost to “game on”. This is such a great time of year for us – the Swamp is getting Steamy, and there’s a fair amount of Monkey Business in the Marsh. HeeeeHaaaw!

        February 1, 2013
      • Hahahahha!!!! Ah, wonderful. No more Rookery Loop as of today though! Good to know that they’re all nice and settled for the season…. Hoorah! I’ll miss all the gators in that area, for sure.

        February 1, 2013
  12. This is such a informative post..I was surprised to learn that even snapping turtles have a courtship of sorts with the male having claws in the front in order to stroke the female…who knew….Michelle

    January 31, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! I just love how these tidbits help to break the stereotypes of gators… their oft-monogamy, devotion, etc.

      FASCINATING! I had no idea… Nature is just amazing!!

      January 31, 2013
  13. Awww…fantastic photos of the lovely couple getting frisky! 😀 Love the GBH pair too!

    January 31, 2013
    • Hee, thanks so much!

      On my hike this past weekend, I noticed ALL the gators (this is out in our Everglades watershed) were VERY antsy. Ergh. It’s a bit early, but who am I to tell them? I just know now to be extra-watchful. 🙂

      January 31, 2013
  14. Gator love and cuddle, how surprisingly human 🙂

    January 31, 2013
    • I wish you could have seen them… It really was a cuddle — no mating. And the babies were at my feet! Just wonderful!!

      January 31, 2013
  15. Great stuff and great shots. Makes my humble little blog look a bit sad. Thanks for dropping by and following. Really appreciate it.

    January 31, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I really love your blog… It’s quite lovely and fun. I can’t wait to see more of it!!

      January 31, 2013
  16. Oh these photos are wonderful!

    January 31, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!! I’m very lucky to be surrounded by these guys… 🙂

      January 31, 2013
  17. OK… The last two win. The smile on the face of the dude or dudette says it all. (grin)

    January 31, 2013
    • Hahaha!! Isn’t it wonderful?! I love it… So rare for me to see (well, safely) in the wild. 🙂

      February 1, 2013
  18. These are all such high quality images, I especially adore the Great Blue Heron and the heart shaped tree. Christina, I changed my blog’s name to “Caribbean Biodiversity”, but it’s the same address.

    February 1, 2013
    • Thanks so very much!! There’s so much love…. And as another blogger mentions, love on my part, as well!

      Ah, I love your new title! It definitely suits your content (flora + fauna) that much better.

      February 1, 2013
  19. Nice photos of this theme, Fey Girls, and you even included crocodiles (of course)! 😉

    February 1, 2013
    • Thanks so much! And of course… How could I ignore these lovelies? NEVER!! 🙂

      February 1, 2013
  20. hannekekoop #

    Great photos, Feygirl. The gator love; the look in their eyes, gorgeous.

    February 1, 2013
    • Thanks so much!! It’s a sight to see them like this… People don’t realize how sensitive they are.

      February 2, 2013
  21. Love, love, love that first photo. What a great find.

    February 1, 2013
    • Thank you!! Isn’t it just perfect….? And it was so hidden in the woods, tucked away. 🙂

      February 2, 2013
  22. Now why is it that I don’t associate love with alligators?? Love your photos, especially the second-GBH one. WOW !

    February 1, 2013
    • THANK you!! It’s so wonderful… People don’t realize how sensitive these critters are, honestly!

      February 2, 2013
  23. Reblogged this on Reneemaira3003's Blog.

    February 1, 2013
  24. The great blue herons remind me of our boat-tailed grackels during mating season. The males spread their wings and strut in great circles, with their beaks pointed to the sky. Sometimes, two males will square off, as if to compete for the highest beak! They make remarkable noises, but sometimes the girls just wander off, as though bored!

    The photos are just splendid. I do like the last one of the alligators. Here in Texas we say, “Goat ropers need love, too”, and I suppose the same applies to alligators!

    February 1, 2013
    • Hahah!! I love it… I’ve seen that, actually — and I love love love how you describe the female walking away, bored-like. I’ve witnessed the same with fighting lizards. So fantastic!!

      Thanks so much. It’s yet another stereotype-breaker, eh? They’re quite sensitive critters — often monogamous, wonderful mommas…

      February 2, 2013
  25. What a series full of LOVE and beauty!

    February 2, 2013
    • Thanks so much! I’m incredibly fortunate to be surrounded with such LOVE! 🙂

      February 2, 2013
  26. By far the best post for this photo challenge that I’ve seen!

    February 2, 2013
    • Ah, thanks so very much!! Lots and lots of love down here in the Everglades, hee!! 🙂

      February 2, 2013
  27. marialla #

    THANK YOU FOR THE GREAT SHOTS OF MOTHER NATURE BUT I SEE THAT THAT GATOR BEAST IS JUST IN YOUR BLOOD. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK AND GREAT GATORING!!! AS ALWAYS – JUST LOVE YOUR STUFF!!!!

    February 3, 2013
    • Thank you so very much!! Such love out there… Like all of us, they just want to survive, love, live! 🙂

      February 4, 2013
  28. I’m surprised the gators let you photograph them during lovemaking. Enjoyed your description of the gators’ mating ritual–all that spouting and slapping heads.

    February 7, 2013
    • Hee… Well, these guys were all show, more cuddles. They were a mating PAIR, but the fruits of their efforts were sitting on the bank near me (lots of babies!). This was more a show.

      Thanks so much — it really is a fascinating time. DEFINITELY time for humans to be a bit more heads-up, understandably, though. 🙂

      February 10, 2013
  29. Great pics. Love the heart tree and the alligator cuddles. 🙂

    February 10, 2013
    • Thanks so much! Isn’t that tree amazing? It couldn’t get more perfect, and it was nearly hidden deep in the woods / swamp…. And who wouldn’t love cuddling alligators? 🙂

      February 10, 2013

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