Got Keratin Scales?

I must say, this weather we are experiencing pretty much sucks. True to form, Texas weather has continued against the norm, assuredly due to us being … wait for it … in TEXAS! The cool temps shifted off a bit only to be replaced by constant sprinkles if not all out rain – Linda is currently driving through sheets of rain so I can focus on getting a post out. A week to go and I only have half my self-imposed monthly quota out. Definitely do not want to break my multi-year streak in the first month of the new year. For the birders out there, we just left the Big Tree area in Rockport (outside of Goose Island State Park). We made a quick stop there to see if the “secret” birding targets were out and about. They were, so we are now officially on our way to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to see what is playing in the rain there. Not very optimistic, but it is on our way and now that we are 3 weeks into the “Average Year” (link here) we do not want to leave any checks on the table. I need to update that Chronicles page, but for a quick update, Ron is sitting at 152 and my counter sits a tad beyond at 154. Ron made a nice addition to our tracking spreadsheet which shows the total unique species between us which is at 170. I expect that number to significantly outpace our individual numbers until I return home due to the fact he is picking up checks not available down here and vice versa. Feeling good so far as my year count is over half of my official life list count. There are still +1L’s (Lifers) in the queue I didn’t get to and some nice adds while down here, but still technically correct per the tracker in the nav bar.

I was able to stave off some of the BaRwW (Birds are Rats with Wings) Consortium hate mail and rowdy protests outside Intrigued headquarters with the recent non-feathered post. Decided to go ahead and throw them another bone as they are a fickle bunch (you should see their weekly newsletter).

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Definitely NOT a bird (but there might be a way to squeeze one in – hold that thought).

Hit the jump to read more about our scaly feature.

Contrary to BaRwW newsletter myths, Gators have actually been featured a number of times at Intrigued (link here, here and a rather scary one here). I happen to enjoy taking pictures of these prehistoric creatures … at a distance. When I have to start pulling in the reach of the Beast to get them in frame is when I start getting a little concerned – ESPECIALLY when they are pointed right at me.

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

I looked at this shot and immediately thought of the Far Side cartoon of the eyeball in the side mirror “Things are closer than they appear” (link here). Bravely (chuckle), I stood in the danger zone and continued shooting at great peril in order to deliver my readers a captivating post. Believe that? Yeah, me neither hehehe. Okay, so to be honest, I was in zero danger thanks to the elevate boardwalk Ron and I were standing on. It kept coming towards me though, which forced me to suppress flight instincts that were starting to take over.

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Amazing how graceful these creatures are in the water. On land they pretty much lumber along, but are credited with a 10mph burst speed (note, references are all over the board on this number even going as high as 35mph – going with the consensus number). For all the non-runners out there, take note whenever a runner offers to take you to a pond in the south (shhhhh, don’t tell Ron he’s my sacrificial buffer). In the water, the Gator can push it up to 20mph (again, numbers seem to vary here).

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

I’d say roughly within 50 feet of the boardwalk the stealthy predator abruptly turned to his left somehow barely causing a ripple in the water. Flight instinct throttled back to neutral now replaced by the anticipation pedal. What caught its attention, perhaps a clueless Turtle, an unsuspecting Snake, and amorous mate…hmmmm. Slowly widened out the camera view in hopes of answering the quandary. Maintaining a ripple free pace it slowly propelled itself toward the bank. Closer, closer, closer.. and there it was.

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

No idea if this was the intended target or not, but the Green Heron in the tangle was directly in line with an apex predator. Gave Ron the heads up on the potential behavior experience that was shaping up. To the Heron’s credit, it didn’t move a feather as the Gator slowly approached. It was looking right at it so it wasn’t due to lack of awareness. Made some internal predictions as to whether the Gator could/would be able to reach that high out of the water (maybe swat the branch with the tail to reduce the gap) or would feathers prevail over the stubby legged danger. News at 10!

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Wow, was I completely off. As you can see in the shot above, it completely gave up and turned away (again, with little ripple). That Heron has some stones as it never even twitched. Swear I heard “Or I shall taunt you a seeeeckon time”. All bets returned, no circle of life behavior today, carry on.

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

As a bit of background, this series played out while Ron and I were visiting the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on our visit to Dauphin Island back in April of last year. This was the second time we had been to their pond situated in the middle of their venue. It was also the second time we spotted this oversized sized reptile there. To put everything in perspective, this pond sits directly in front of the tree line mentioned in the previous Osprey post (link here), which was in front of the spot where the Crab pictures were taken (link here). My OCD prefers life in symmetry ha!

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

We stood there awhile and watched our Gator friend continue its stroll around the pond. Nothing seemed to get it excited since its abrupt turn to the banks in front of us.

Will call it a post there. We are getting close to Brazoria and need to get the camera ready for some car seat birding. Take care everyone and assume there will be a few more posts headed your way before this month comes to a close.

14 thoughts on “Got Keratin Scales?”

    1. I like the way you think! I can already think of the companion category for STJ(Small Toothy Jobbers which would be immediately populated with the Possum – ‘dem things are nasty creatures.. with a mouth full of razors. Appreciate you dropping in Brad, how’s the home weather?

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  1. Those are great alligator photos. BaRwW? Bats are rats with wings, but who says that of birds? Birds are more like reptiles with feathers and wings. Birds like roadrunners would whack us against the ground and eat us it they were any bigger. I’ve heard tales of eagles stealing children, and I can believe it after I saw videos of eagles picking up mountain goats and throwing them off of cliffs.

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    1. Thank you Timothy! You should see all the hate mail I get from the bird rat activists. I’m with you though, I think their mission statement is off base – clearly reptiles are a better derogatory likeness. Now that Roadrunner image is scary – watched that play out at Bensen-Rio Grande Valley SP last week – apparently a small lizard need to be tenderized before being gulped down. Now you are channeling Linda with the Eagle comment – she frets about our babies being hauled off every time she goes out with them. I keep telling her the Eagles are not the issue – it’s the Owls that have the lift power (note, that clarification does not help her concerns one bit hehehe). Appreciate you coming by.

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      1. The owls can take amazingly large prey. We had a plugue of roadrunner about 20 years ago. Ten to 20 roadrunners were hanging around the house every day one summer. When we were out working in the garden a dozen roadrunners would walk in a circle around us trying to decided if they could take us down. They were onto anything we dug up that looked like food. They decimated our lizard population over the summer and then left.

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  2. Ok… Tim and a friend of mine must be related, both enjoy the gore of animal behavior.
    Hopefully you get better weather as you travel out of Texas… if possible avoid Oklahoma ice storms there are the type of where the phrase comes “when Hell freezes over”.

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    1. Tim definitely hit the gruesome meter on that one ha! Weather appears to be going the opposite way so far. Finally did get some sun today, but the temps are dropping in direct relationship to the proximity of home. Wish I would have brought some winter clothes ugh. Definitely glad we are NOT going through Oklahoma – wonder if that is where the Eagles (band) decided to reform?

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  3. Great photos, I love checking the map to see where the birding hot spots are that you mention. I have a post coming up about Mr Alligator at Dauphin Island, he happened to come to visit the dock on one warm day we were there. That post is in a couple weeks though, we are traveling again heading west as you head east. But I am still posting photos from the Island, we were there for 3 months. Save travels to you as well. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Sandra! Looking forward to the Alligator post. I remembered (while writing this) that you had mentioned the same Gator in one of your previous posts. Best of luck on your travel West. I completely understand the backlog of posts, I always joke that my photo queue is over 3 years old, but I might have to update that to 4 now! I take a lot of shots on my trips and if nothing else, it takes me awhile to get them worked up in the digital darkroom so their presentable for my readers. Appreciate you coming by.

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  4. Nice shots of the alligator, Brian! We see them in the Myakka River near here. It’s always exciting to see them! The birds seem to know when alligators are hunting and when they are not, but they still sometimes become lunch for the alligators. The heron in your photo was up high enough to discourage the alligator, it seems.

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    1. Thank you Cheryl. I was all ready for that Gator to go Gecko and walk up that tiny limb – now that would have been a great story ha. Something tells me this scenario has played out several times for this Heron and I doubt a single feather twitched on it. Have a great rest of the week!

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  5. Enjoyed watching this gator “over your shoulder”. That face-on shot is intimidating! I’m often reminded of the recent discoveries indicating that birds are today’s “dinosaurs”, perhaps just as much as the gator. Good hunting on the rest of your tour, and sorry our winter monsoons have curtailed your outings. Drive safe!

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    1. Thank god for that railing between me and that Gator or I would have been taking a few steps back. I’ve always claimed (and call) the Pileated a Pterodactyl so I completely concur with you on that front. No worries on the weather, we are making the most of it – had a very cold and soggy run through Brazoria a few days ago. Surprisingly active on the bird front even in the rain so still had a great time – first time I wasn’t eaten alive by Mosquitoes there hehehe. As always, appreciate you taking the time to come by Sam.

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