Hello everyone! We are quickly approaching the end of another year of blogging – my 11th year to be specific – and hoping to get a few more posts out before Father Time turns over the hourglass. The good news is other than a few cleanups here and there I am officially on vacation until the New Year giving me plenty of time to get that done. Of course, there are Halloween props to build (yes, that is a year long activity), books to read, house projects to finally wrap up and fingers crossed, some birding to get to. Fortunately, I was able to get a lot of the images for upcoming musings done while traveling Sunday removing the most difficult part of the blog process. The birds have been dominating the slots as of late and therefore switching it up a bait .. err … bit.
Nothing says Christmas like Alligators. Okay, maybe not, but I needed an excuse to feature this series of shots taken at the beginning of the year (note, that might seem a long time ago, but my back queue of shots has officially crested over 4 years – an embarrassing amount, but relieved to know my brother Ron having once chastised me for my inefficiencies is now experiencing a similar queue buildup ha!). Our menacing looking specimen comes to us courtesy of South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this menacing creature.
You may recall a set of Alligators was featured back in February (link here) from the same place – those were taken in January of 2017. That featured specimen from Padre Island was significantly larger than the one you are looking at now. This one was in the 6 to 7 foot range and didn’t immediately illicit the “get the hell away from here” response that larger one did. Of course, it also didn’t bring a desire to jump in and enjoy a cuddle moment. It was comforting to know it would require more than a few bites before this prehistoric creature would make me disappear.
I cannot say the same for the creatures that were also in the area. Less than 30 feet away in all directions were shorebirds and ducks going about their daily business without an apparent concern in the world. The Clapper (link here) and the Green Heron (link here) were actually taken right before and after getting these shots in the tin. Tells you something about the resolve some of our feathered friends possess – and by resolve I mean complete stupidity. Granted they have the advantage with the ability to take flight, but pretty sure that Clapper never saw this Alligator as it continued to forage along the bank.
About the time that Clapper emerged, this guy or gal lowered into the water (sorry, no clue how to tell these beasts apart from afar and no chance on flipping it over for validation – I do know females generally stay less than 10 feet long, but still no help here). Likely correlation as opposed to causation being that it didn’t really show any other reaction indicating that Clapper was in jeopardy. Maybe there is some hidden code that tells birds when it’s safe to be around them — or again, they are likely just stupid. Eventually our scaly friend found a nice rock to rest on and there it sat for the rest of the morning, content to soak up the sun and dream about one day …
…growing to the size of another inhabitant of the South Padre Island marsh. Now this one did scare the crap out of me and I was shooting from the safety of the boardwalk. He never revealed the full length of his body while I was there preferring to let you infer how many licks it would take to get to the center of Bri – a one, a two, a three, crunch (link here for those not familiar with the reference). Based on the fact I was unable to get all of the Gator (that I could actually see) in the frame immediately told me this was a male – clearly over 10 feet and plenty more.
It was the fangs that truly intrigued me. Based on some quick searches, learned that it typically takes an Alligator 10-12 years to reach 6 foot long. Their rate of growth also starts slowing as they get older, so the remaining 4+ probably took at least that long. To have fangs this clean tells me this beast is chomping down on gritty items (read bones) at regular intervals.
Can’t help to feel a little sorry for the Heron he was eyeing from the bank, but we must all accept the circle of life when it comes to the wildlife arena. Suspect the tadpoles being plucked from the water do not hold that same concern for the Heron ha!
Take it easy everyone, will be back soon.