While walking through the park I came to one of the main channels that run the length of the swamp. It is a spot I stop by to see what the turtles on the log look like. There were one or two on the log but I did not like the composition so I turned around. I saw an alligator laying in the water.
I thought to myself I wonder if she/it was the one that made the trail in the marsh grass a few hundred feet from where it was and then a flash in the sky caught my eye. In my excitement I forgot I was not in auto iso but I remembered I was at a shutter speed of 1/800 sec. So I brought the camera up to my eye and shot a few frames of a rare bird . A Swallow Tailed Kite. They were low enough in the sky that I might have been able to crop in and get a fair shot of one. I go to chimp the shots while I walk down the bridge part of the boardwalk . YEA the histogram told me the story. I made a photograph of a polar bear in a blinding snow storm. I.E. a white frame. Over exposed . As I was mentally kicking myself in the arse I got that feeling like I was being stalked or at least watched.
Yep watched but the back of my neck said I need to pay attention. I moved a bit further down the boardwalk towards the woods and were I would pass by the path made in the grass.
Hmmm . Back up out of the water and a fairly fast approach blowing bubble from her mouth (right before I brought the camera up to my eye and just out of this framing). This is almost the equivalent of a dog or cat fluffing up the hair and the hair on the back of the animal standing up while letting out a hiss or growl. I did not like the angle that I was being approached so I backed up towards the bridge part of the boardwalk.
It stopped and watched me for a few moments then came under the bridge.
This is right before it went underwater. So knowing the depth was 4-6 feet deep I went a bit higher up on the bridge. Just to be safe because it would be out of reach incase she/it jumped up.
She resurfaced right below me keeping her eye on me. I knew I was relatively safe where I was and knew where she/it was so I got distracted by a few birds in the distance. I was back to kicking myself for missing the Kite shot and I started trying to will them to circle back around .
I started to move back down the ramp to where I could walk back into the woodline after all I was stalking the owls. I noticed she was watching me and moved positions to get a better view. A few more steps and I looked back.
You know when you are or were a kid how you would get the side eye from mom when you were F'ing up.
This is a side eye if I have ever seen one. I zoomed into the photo at 100% on the computer and it is eerie to see myself in her eye. Once again a bird distracted me this one was a Red Winged Blackbird that the way the sun hit it made it look blue and the color on the wings neon. I was so mesmerized that I forgot to take a photo. I turned around and did not see the gator and the back of my neck relaxed a tad so I knew she was there but my body did not recognize the threat as being as high. So I stopped in the shade of a Bald Cyprus Tree and waited for the blackbird to get in a position the sun was at my back. I set my knapsack down and grabbed a water bottle . After I took a drink something said dummy look down.
She/it had snuck up underneath me. While she is only about two foot below me I knew at the angle I was to the business end of her that I was safe(ish) . It was at this point I heard a few voices coming down the board walk and she moved off just a bit to where she could observe them coming down the walk.
Once she reached about 50 meters from me she turned to watch them walk by the trail and blew some bubbles out but also decided that 3 animals (us humans) were more than she wanted to approach in the manner that she did before. By now with the added human presence the birds went quite so I decided after talking to the couple for a bit that it was time to start stalking the owls.
All in all I do not view this as an agressive alligator who had been fed before but she/it was sending out the message that you do not belong in the area that you are. Now you may ask why I keep referring to it as a her. Remember that trail I mentioned?
It leads off to a muddy grassy part of the swamp and a spot that would not be underwater . The way the grass is mashed down odds are this is an alligator that did this and it was done recently. The behavior of the alligator is one that I have seen several times in the past. It is that of a momma gator warning you that you are too close to the nest. If you heed her warning that is all of the further that the encounter goes. If you choose to not listen then she gets more agressive and will attack. There are stories of people being run up a tree by alligators and the alligator staying underneath the tree for a day and a half before decided that the threat is no more. There was only one time that I felt threatened and that was when she first approached but rather than be stupid I backed off to a distance and height that would keep me safe and give me time to react. When I made it back to the park interpretative center I let the employee know that they need to pay attention to this part of the trail and that there maybe a nest there. He said he saw the trail earlier that morning and knew where I was talking about. I am not 100% sure that this was the gator that made the trail because she looked a bit thinner than the trail and was only about 7 maybe 8 feet long. This is also a reminder to me that this time of the year I need to take a bit of extra caution in the swamp . Even though there is a boardwalk that is about two feet off the water it does add a bit of safety but I do not need to let the safety zone make me complacent and walk on the edges of the walkway. It was an awesome experience one that I have not had since I was a young teen. If I had been in a boat or there had been no walkway I would have made like a cow patty and hit the trail rather quickly with 0 photos .