Way at the back of the pond, under an overhang of trees a young Alligator assumed a pose I more often associate with sun bathing. We’ve had some warm days, but it is still winter and the water remains cold.
The majority of the water has been let out of one of the rice field ponds at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in advance of some repairs to be made on the back dike. This has left a mud flat that is very attractive to the wading birds.
From a distance I thought the other creature was a stick but I could clearly see the eyes of a small Alligator as I got closer.
The last image is focused on the Alligator, that was content to hold that spot while the Tricolored Heron hunted behind him.
Or, let sleeping Alligators lie.
A view from a little further back showing off the swamp sunflowers that were in bloom throughout October:
Yellow-bellied Sliders were taking advantage of the sun on a recent walk around a pond, positioning themselves on anything sticking out of the water. They had traveled through duck weed and other pond vegetation to get to the coveted spots.
I don’t think the vegetation does a thing to protect the turtles. Alligators, the apex predator in this pond, follows his prey by motion and is himself camouflaged by the same pond covering.
The smallest turtle I saw added a leg extension to his pose, probably needing a little balance to stay on the pointed rock.
This was the coolest morning we’ve had since spring, just below 60 F (15 C) and the other Alligators I had seen were fully in the water with just their noses sticking out. This fellow was boldly more exposed, perhaps feeling some warmth from the sun’s first rays.
I wondered if this young Alligator felt he was hidden by the small clump of grass around his head.
Wading birds and alligators gathered along this marsh inlet as the tide was going out.
The Snowy Egrets changed position frequently, they seem happiest when flapping around. The other egrets and herons tended to stick to their claimed spot, even as the alligators passed by.
Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, and White Ibis shared the banks.
I’ve documented this scenario before, but still find it interesting to watch unfold.
Alligator 1 is minding his own business having a snooze.
Alligator 2 would like a turn in the sun and just kept pushing.
There was no altercation, just a final nudge, and Alligator 1 went over the side.
On a recent visit to one of the local wildlife management areas several Alligators were bellowing all around the old rice field pond. Both males and females can bellow and will do it year round, not just in mating season. During mating season they will do it as a chorus. Needless to say, it can be a little disconcerting. You the human have no way to know what a particular chorus is all about and sound echoing on the water often makes it hard to know just where a particular Alligator is hiding.
I watched this Alligator work his way along the bank of the dike and unfortunately couldn’t see his whole body but was fascinated by the jumping water. The “water dance” is caused by an infrasonic signal known as “subaudible vibrations” and is only performed by males.
After this performance he was done with his socialization activities.
He picked a spot a little further along the bank and settled in.
Alligator social behavior is quite complex, and include at least visual, auditory, and olfactory components. I found a fascinating article by Kent A. Vliet published in the journal American Zoology and shared by the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park.
You can read the full article
This is the biggest Alligator I have ever seen taking a walk.
Zoom in to see that the stuff hanging out of his mouth is vegetation of some kind. A juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron is standing at the Alligator’s tail.
Lodge Pond, Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, SC, 7/1/2018