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.
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.
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.
These two Alligators were swimming in different ponds, taken about an hour apart on a recent June morning.
The bank where I was standing was much higher above the water in the second image, the sun was higher in the sky, and there was a remarkable difference in how the water appeared. The second Alligator was moving a little faster, too.