Big Guns in the Wildlife Garden

Dateline: May 31, 2013*

What do we have here?
What do we have here?

As I’ve said in the past, my yard never seems to let me down when it comes to providing new flora or fauna as an idea for my weekly post here at Beautiful Wildlife Garden.  But, it is getting a little scary now.  Seems Mom Nature is bringing out the big guns.

I was out for my evening stroll that I take when the dogs are eating. This is my solo lap around the back of the property in the pond area, so I don’t have to deal with dogs getting soaked or finding venomous snakes which are more likely to be in the wetland area.  It’s a nice time to reflect and snap a picture or two of all the fun flora and fauna that graces my place.  I got near the back corner and I heard a weird noise, kind of a low growl, but not threatening or anything.  I noted to run through some sounds on the Cornell bird site to see who might have been hiding.  There are a lot of new fledglings around and many hide in the scrub area of the place adjacent to me.  I spotted a Crested Caracara high in a pine tree two lots over, so there are some birds around that I am not familiar with.

Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) new to my life list
Crested Caracara (Caracara cheriway) new to my life list

My pond has a seasonally dry section that won’t be dry too much longer.  Rainy season starts around May 27th every year so the pond fills rather rapidly with the afternoon downpours.  Hurricane season officially starts on June 1st.  There are a lot of interesting things to be found during dry season in that one end of the pond.  It isn’t really dry, dry…more “spongy”-dry with some small low areas that are a bit mucky.

I was clomping around checking out the area that I rescued some tadpoles from the other day.  The tadpoles were living in an ephemeral pond and it ran dry.  I have about 10 or so in a container on the patio and I tossed quite a few into the deep end.  I was standing gazing out at the lily pads, looking to see if I could find the turtle that disappointingly hasn’t been around for a week or so.  I was about to continue my regular route, up the embankment to the back fence when about 4 feet to my left something caught my attention.  I rubbed my eyes in disbelief, for there, right at the edge where the dry section meets the deep was a 2.5 – 3 foot alligator lounging in the shallow water.  He blinked which is what caught my attention.

Peaking out from beneath some lily pads, An American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Peaking out from beneath some lily pads, An American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

Of course I had my camera and quickly started taking photographs.  He didn’t move at all, just gave that alligator blank stare that they have.  After I ran out of space on the camera, I continued my regular route and got to the other side of him.  I took out my pocket camera and took two additional shots when he suddenly turned in my direction, dove and disappeared into the deep.

I couldn’t wait to get inside to see the photos and to share my new encounter with my sister.  Her only response was “I hope you aren’t kayaking in that pond”.  I told her I needed to wait for the water to rise; it isn’t quite big enough now to make it worth the effort to paddle.

Not very big by Alligator standards the lily pads are about 7 inches wide.
Not very big by Alligator standards the lily pads are about 7 inches wide.

Given his size, this alligator is unlikely to be a threat to me.  The dogs are a different story, but they aren’t able to get to the pond without my supervision, so it really isn’t a concern.   You can learn how to live with alligators (pdf), let’s face it, they are a daily part of life in Florida.

I returned to the pond a bit later and saw the gator swimming just under the top of the water, wiggling the massive lily pad plots.  I also pondered what I am going to do.   There is no immediate hurry to send him on his way; I figure he’ll leave on his own eventually.  I am annoyed that he probably will eat all my bass and bluegills which I love to see swimming.  I’m also annoyed that he probably ate my turtle that I waited so many years for.  But heck, I’VE GOT AN ALLIGATOR!

Just hanging out enjoying the sun
Just hanging out enjoying the sun

As if that wasn’t enough, the next day I went down to check on “Albert” (named by my friend Kit).  He was nowhere to be found.  I’m really hoping that he is an Albert and not an Aly…an Aly is likely to attract an Albert, Alexander, Allen and more.  OY!

I began to walk back away from the side of the pond when this rather large creature wiggled up the back embankment, wriggled under the gate and slid in the palmetto scrub.  An otter!  About a 2.5-3 ft otter, mostly tail.  I didn’t realize they got quite that large.  He was too fast and I was in such shock that I never even got a hand on the camera.  A check of the Internet revealed that what I heard in the back corner the previous day was indeed a sound from an otter.

There had been an area under the palmettos that looked a bit like a den.  It seemed too large for a rabbit or cat and I was curious what could be in there.  There are bobcats in the area, but I couldn’t imagine with all the wooded areas that they would choose a place where there is activity several times a day.  I do spend a LOT of time back at the pond.

I emailed my native Floridian friend to find out if there was a prison break at Gatorland or something that would cause all these new arrivals at my place.  😉

They are rather nice looking reptiles
They are rather nice looking reptiles

There hasn’t been any additional sightings of either the otter or the gator and I did see several of the larger fish swimming lazily in the shallow edges unscathed.  Perhaps my new “friends” moved along to greener pastures, knowing that I’ve formulated my writing for the week.

The bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) will be happy if Albert is gone.
The bluegills (Lepomis macrochirus) will be happy if Albert is gone.

I just wonder when I should expect the bobcat or a bear…I’ve got my notebook ready 😉

*This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on May 31, 2013 at beautifulwildlifegarden[dot]com. Click the date to view reader comments.

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