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Posts tagged ‘alligators’

A Proud Momma

I’ve missed my alligators — but I’ve returned to their land, and in their honor, another devoted post! I’ve equally missed my poor Serenity Spell, due to a trip to the northern climes, a new OS on my lifeline laptop, an installed Photoshop, thanks to a dear friend (I now know how to insert my copyright…hoorah!), and a new watermark — courtesy of my gracious friend and skilled web designer Richard Yartlett.

On the night that Isaac roared into Florida (as a Tropical Storm) with its torrential flooding and high winds, one of the resident gators at our protected wetlands became a proud momma. She had fiercely protected her nest (or mound) throughout the 65-day incubation period, which she alone built out of vegetation, sticks, and mud in a sheltered spot near the water. She had laid her 20-50 eggs and covered them under more vegetation, which heated as it decayed, serving to incubate the eggs. If a mother alligator is killed or removed, she can’t protect her nest or young — and the hatchlings are doomed. Leave wildlife alone!

{Click to enlarge images!}

Hullo, momma!

Such a patient momma

The hatchlings were welcomed to quite a world! It was an eventful night, with brilliant and incessant lightning, high winds, and downpours to impress even the most hardened native Floridian.

Two weeks later, I spied the proud momma and her myriad babies. I was thrilled — I often see baby alligators, and obviously many adults. And I see them together…. But to see them intertwined is difficult — usually, the mother keeps a watchful eye on her babies from a safe distance.

Little prince of the swamp

Eye see youuuuu….

Hatchlings are 6-8 inches long, and are near-replicas of their parents, save for a series of yellow and black stripes which camouflage beautifully with the surrounding marsh roots. For five months, they’ll remain with the mother before finding their own ways. In our area, we typically see 5-10 baby alligators survive in the protected wetlands. Perhaps less. Common predators that prey upon the juvenile alligators include snakes, raccoons, bobcats, raptors, and even larger alligators. But for now, they’re being watched over by a very dutiful and observant momma….

A perfect perch

Hello, You Gorgeous Gator

Lots of people talk to animals…. Not very many listen, though…. That’s the problem. —Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything about alligators,  and I feel withdrawal coming on. So for my sake, here’s a gorgeous gator we encountered on a recent hike in the northern section of the Everglades.

{As always, please click on the image for expansion!}

Florida Everglades Alligator: Helllllo, gorgeous!

Here’s how one of these lovelies appears in the wild — in this case, full and slow after a meal, catching some sun. Which is why we ALWAYS have an eye on the water’s edge throughout our hikes — especially when water and bits of swamp suddenly pop up out of nowhere, *wink*!

While they are certainly admirable and fierce predators, there is absolutely no need to assume that they will eat your face if you encounter one in the wild. We’ve never been bothered by gators — even during mating and nesting seasons. If we see an active alligator mound (nest), we steer clear, knowing a momma gator is diligently protecting her eggs or young. The most disconcerting experiences I’ve ever had with these amazing creatures have occurred when I wasn’t watching the water’s edge as closely as I should have been, to put it mildly — or when we’ve startled or frightened them, causing uproarious splashes into the water amid the silence of the ‘glades.

Leave wildlife alone, because they want nothing more than to leave we humans alone….

Resting at the water’s edge — or, in my words during our hike: “Oops! Lookie there!”

Another view of the big lizard

A Rainy Walk, a Cache of Found Feathers, and a Jealous Gator

On an especially soggy day — we underestimated the might of the day’s thunderstorms — we pushed ahead with our continued exploration of West Palm Beach’s Grassy Waters Preserve. We hadn’t explored the SWA Trails within the Preserve, and had been searching to see how they linked to the outer Owahee Trail. While we couldn’t do much on this particular day — the rains and lightning proved too much, even for us — we were able to stretch our legs a bit, and visit with hundreds of egrets, herons, and ibis.

And even better? I collected feathers; oh, I collected feathers. If there’s anyone in blog-land who’s equally enamored with the loveliness and power of Everglades’ feathers, just holler. I have plenty that I’d be willing to share — and one can make only so many smudge sticks out of found feathers….

Heading into the SWA Trails: We should be good. Sure.

Further into the trails: Whoops. Looking a bit dark; where’s our ponchos?

Sabal Palm Tree along the trail

Graceful as ever, a Great Blue Heron flies down a waterway on the Rookery Loop

Flying Ibis against invasive Australian Pines

Rookery Loop Signage: CLOSED! Nooo…! But how wonderful they’re protected.

And, of course…. An alligator encounter! This guy was a juvenile, very small. But most amusing about him (her?) was that, as I was praising his loveliness and snapping shots, he swam ever closer. Unbeknownst to me, my guy had silently crept up to take a peek, and this little gator’s calm demeanor suddenly changed — he thrashed wildly in the water, like a bezerker on acid. We both jumped like jackrabbits, and the human male skulked away, muttering something about a “big dumb lizard”…. I think he was just jealous. And as if on cue, up popped the gator, swimming back towards me for another cooing session.

Alligator Near the Rookery Loop Trail: A Lovely Friend

Alligator Near the Rookery Loop: Come Closer, Cutie

Greeted by a Gator

A juvenile alligator greeted us as we entered the trails of Grassy Waters Preserve. He was no more than three feet — still very small, but no longer a baby. Being very cautious and in extreme-defense mode due to his size, he was quite flighty. But I did manage a shot or two of this adorable guy….

Juvenile Alligator: Eye on You

Juvenile Alligator: Slow Movements, Sloooowww….

1…2…3 Gator Mounds & Their Protectors

Twenty million years as a resident of planet Earth, and counting…. Scientists believe that the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) resembles animals that inhabited our planet as long as 100-150 million years ago — and that they may be linked to creatures dating 50-65 million years ago, managing to avoid the extinction that killed off the dinosaurs, their prehistoric contemporaries.

I’ve posted images of alligator courtship, several on the gator babies (with more on the way — updates to our wetland babies!) — but we now have alligator nests to watch. At least 3 nests in one wetland preserve alone — with the momma gators keeping diligent guard. Alligator nests (or mounds) are built by the female, and comprised of vegetation, sticks, and mud. They’re usually located in a sheltered spot in or near the water. She lays 20-50 eggs, and covers them under more vegetation which heats as it decays, serving to incubate the eggs. The female will remain near the nest throughout the 65-day incubation period, protecting it. If a mother alligator is killed or removed, she can’t protect her nest or young — dooming the hatchlings. *Leave wildlife alone!*

It’s always wise, and healthy (wink) to know what a gator nest looks like (see below!), if you’re a hiker in our area — momma will most definitely be nearby!

Female Alligator Guarding Her Nest

Female Alligator… Keeping a Watchful Eye on Her Nest

Small Female Alligator Guarding Nest, Surrounded by Pond Apples

An Alligator Mound at the Water’s Edge

Alligator Mound from August ’11 — Newly Hatched

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