History

The Dry Season

APRIL 2009

This story in the blog is a long one. I have been photographing
our back pond while it goes through the demanding months
of drying up. Watching the wildlife in this stressful competitive
time is like having the Discovery Channel on every day! So, if you
aren’t interested in pictures of birds and ‘gators, carry on to
another chapter in the blog and you’ll find stories about Clyde.

Florida has a dry season, which begins in April and ends with
the beginning of Hurricane Season in June. Spring is also the
mating season, so as the water dries up birds and animals
come from miles around for the water and to mate. During
this struggle for survival the strongest survive to pass their
gene pool on to the next generation.

For those birds and animals that have already mated and
have young, the pools of water contain large quantities
of struggling fish to eat, insuring the survival of the young.

As the dry season begins in Florida, birds come to
our back pond from miles around to feast on the
all you can eat buffet of fish.

Although this dry season happens every year, this
year is one of the driest on record.

‘Gators eye-balling the Wood Stork

Heron, Turtle, & Wood Storks

Heron

Heron and Wood Stork

It is interesting to see that the Heron tolerates the Wood Storks
but when the Limpkin showed up, there was a territorial
dispute. In this image the Heron is going after the Limpkin.

Limpkin in flight

Limpkin’s are very solitary and nervous birds. They do not
tolerate any kind of aggressive behavior or suspicious
activity, so the behavior of the heron was enough
for the Limpkin to flee the scene.

Wood Stork

As you can see in this photo, the pond is beginning to
get a very green scum on it. In fact, the pond is
looking almost florescent green!

Wood Stork and Limpkin in tree

Both the Wood Stork and Limpkin are endangered
species. The Limpkin is rarely seen.

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron
The bird had been preening itself, so the
feathers are all puffed up

Wood Storks

We have had all kinds of birds in our back pond, but
I never thought I’d see a Pelican here in the swamp!
This just isn’t the environment for a Pelican, so it is
a mystery as to exactly why it is here.

Wood Storks

The birds are getting territorial as the amount
of fish left in the pond decrease

Wood Stork and Pelican together

Limpkin

Turkey Vulture
(the vultures with the red necks…
…mmmm
don’t you think they should be called
Red Neck Vultures, especially since they are southern birds?)

Anyway…Turkey Vultures are rare in Florida, so it was
with great pleasure that we had several show up at the pond.

The Black Vultures line up around the edge of the pond
spreading their wings into the sun.

I love watching vultures. They are such social birds!
They are always interacting with each other, either
protecting each other or arguing…and oh!…how they love
the dead fish! Believe me, I’m glad they love the rotting
fish because it smells bad enough even
with the clean-up crew of vultures!

The wings and feathers of birds are a most miraculous creation.
Isn’t it a wonder that they can fly with such delicate things
such as feathers?

We still have a few Wood Storks visiting the pond, but the
vultures are beginning to crowd them out.

————————————————————
APRIL 27 2009

The pond is getting smaller and smaller as each day passes

…and of course, the Black Vultures are still here…
There’s too much yummy dead fish around
for them to go elsewhere!

Immature Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Red Shoulder Hawk contemplating the work of getting a dead
fish out of the mud, while not getting eaten by the alligator

Advancing on the dead fish stuck in the mud…

Trying to lift the dead fish out of the mud
while keeping an eye on the Ma ‘Gator

The hawk finally decided it wasn’t worth the work
or the possibility of being dinner for the ‘gator

Red Shoulder Hawk

Lately the Ma ‘Gator has been engaging in a strange behavior:
covering herself in mud.
However, I think I have finally understood what she may be
doing. At one end of the pond she has been using her tail to sweep the
mud aside, which causes a very muddy mess in the remaining water.
Then she dives down under the mud and comes up dragging
it onto the bank of the pond.

I think, somewhere in her primitive mind, she knows the pond is going
to get a lot shallower, so she is ‘digging’ the pond deeper. She needs
depth for her, her babies, and the fish (her food source) in order to
survive. She also wallows through the muddy pond from the shallow
areas into her deeper hole creating streams that keep the remaining
water headed toward her end of the pond.

She looks so satisfied with this mud bath…

Another reason I believe she bathes herself in mud is
to cool down. The water must be getting very warm,
but the mud deep under the water is still cool. Since ‘gators
can’t control their body temperature very well, that cool
mud must feel really good!

And…one more reason is to feed her young. It was
interesting to see her dive into the mud and come up
near her young. The babies immediately came toward
her and began ‘pecking’ away at the mud. I am guessing
that they were eating small critters in the mud that she
had brought up to them with the mud on her back.

Ma ‘Gator suddenly raises up out of the water with
a large fish in her mouth…

SNAP! and her powerful jaw closes over the fish.

In all the years we’ve been here I have never seen her
eat so much! It seems she is constantly eating fish…but
then, they are so easy to catch!

——————————————————–

MAY 3 2009

Every morning the pond looks smaller and smaller…

All of the floating white spots in this photo are dead fish…
…ahhh, the sweet aroma of the swamp!?

Another Black Vulture

The only birds that come around any more are vultures

For the most part, all the birds are done (except the
vultures). They have eaten what was easy, but now the
remaining fish are guarded jealously by the Ma ‘Gator.
The Ma ‘Gator is too hungry and agressive for the birds
to throw caution to the wind and eat from our green pond.

—————————————————————————

MAY 11 2009

The pond is getting smaller and smaller. As the pond reduces in size
Ma ‘Gator paces back and forth wallowing through the muddy water.
She reminds me of a caged animal…filled with the need for a better
environment and very aggressive about saving the one she is in for
her and her babies.

The pond has gotten so low that even the birds don’t come
around any more.


Clyde is so concerned for Ma ‘Gator and her babies that he
has become “Father Nature”. Every morning he runs the
hose into the pond for an hour and we watch as
Ma ‘Gator relaxes in a stream of fresh water…

I heard the sound of baby ‘gators screaming and wondered what
all the noise was about. I looked out the window and saw all of
the baby ‘gators crawling out of the pond toward the woods and
anxiously looking in that direction.

I looked toward the area that her babies were looking and saw
the Ma ‘Gator out in the forest. She was chasing another
‘gator that was around 4 feet.

There just isn’t enough water, or food, to go around and so her aggression
is becoming extreme. I’ve never seen her this aggressive except when
protecting her nest. Right now she needs to protect her young from
getting eaten as well as provide food for them.

This kind of aggression is one of the reasons Clyde and I do not
venture out into the wilderness of the Everglades to photograph
during the dry time of the year. All animals are VERY territorial
right now, not only because of the lack of water and food, but it
is also mating season. It is at this time of the year that we enjoy
being out in the Ten Thousand Islands in our boat.

After she felt she had successfully chased the other ‘gator away, she
turned and headed out of the forest and back toward the pond

Resting for a moment or two…

Ma ‘Gator heads into the mud toward the pond

The baby ‘gators anxiously watch as their mother makes
her way through the mud and back into the pond.

Struggling through the mud…

It took her quite a while to reach the pond.
Struggling through the mud wasn’t and easy task!

After Ma ‘Gator settled into the pond,
her young joined her with happy greetings

The next morning I was headed out to grocery shop. I jumped into
our VW bug, which was parked under the car port, and backed out.
As I was backing out, I looked over my shoulder to see where
I was going, then turned around, looking forward, and saw that
I had just backed out over a 4 foot ‘gator! I didn’t run over
him because he was length-wise under the car, never the less,
it was a great shock to me that a ‘gator had taken cool
refuge under our car! I guess Ma ‘Gator didn’t scare him too
far away! And as for us…we now bend over and look under
the car before we go near it!

At last the rain has come!
I wait all winter for the first rain and
the joyous choral-society of frogs singing a full blown
symphony of the halleluiah chorus!

Ma ‘Gator basking in the downpour…along side a belly-up dead fish
The plants and trees quietly join in the rejoicing by radiating
a beautiful satisfying glow…
The pond is now starting to fill back up as the summer
thunder storms roll across the Everglades

June 3

Our afternoon tropical thunderstorms have been
rolling in every day. The pond is full, the trees and
grass are green again and everything is a peace…

————————————————————–

THE FRONT POND

Wet
The front pond also has a radical change as
it moves from the wet season to the dry season
and back to the wet season…

Dry

Wet

Dry

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