Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Local Focus July 1: Gators and Birds...

The Saint Augustine Alligator Farm might strike you at first as being one of those trite, old, U.S. Highway 1 roadside Florida attractions from the 1960s, designed to trap unwary tourists and separate them from their vanishing financial resources.

Not so!

In addition to being quite the cool little, well run, professionally staffed zoological park (yes, inhabited by hundreds of Florida Alligators -- among many other rare and exotic creatures), Nature's perfect processes have conspired to create an absolutely amazing, unplanned (by the park) environmental phenomenon. A large section of the park's wetland areas are inhabited by (hungry) free-ranging gators. A wooden causeway built into the heart of the area allows visitors to view the reptiles in their native habitat, and, yes, put a quarter into the little machine and toss a handful of treats into the snapping jaws below. The primitive area is dotted with a wide variety of north Florida regional flora, including majestic live oak, and tall palms. The combination of trees and gators created a perfect rookery habitat for the Florida native birds...

Every spring, hundreds and hundreds of great white egrets, snowy egrets (like the one above), cattle egrets, little blue herons, great blue herons, tricolor herons (like the one below with eggs), and wood storks fly in to build their nests, lay, incubate and hatch their eggs and raise their young above the watchful protection of the alligators that keep the bird's natural predators away.

In return, the gators get the occasional egg and feather breakfast (survival of the fittest in action), and hundreds of photographers flock in to observe and photograph every bit of it. The birds a so unintimidated by the stream of humanity gawking at their courtship rituals that some nests are built with a few yards of the causeway.

We made two visits this year, the most recent was last Saturday -- and it produced the photos posted here. Nature in action.... simple!

More photos from the 2009 rookery season can be found on my website here: RiverRoadPhoto


I am a lover of children's literature said...

WOW! I'm not crazy about the alligator pic, but the others are fantastic! I especially love the last one. White on black, with the twig in it's beak is truly one of those rare and hard to get shots.

Your so lucky and talented. I would love to go there someday - just keep me away from those alligators - they scare the daylights out of me, and like ever since I was a child.

Lani said...

Beautiful Photos!