One of our goals while we’re here for these 2 months is to get familiar with some of the local wildlife, and there’s plenty of it here in the park. There are 2 hiking/biking paths that cover the island between the canals and the beach, so this weekend we went out on our bikes in search of alligators and other animals.
The Rangers have told us that they know of one large male alligator (“Slimey”), and 2 females, one of which recently had babies – they think there are 9 of them!
The Black Island Trail goes past the pond where the gators are known to hang out (and where the babies have been seen), and an island in the middle of the canal where Slimey spends his days now that the females have taken over the pond.
Not far into the trail, we spotted several mounds of sand off to the side of the trail, indicating tortoise nests, and several large gopher tortoises.
Tom and I spotted this pair, and called to the boys to stop and look at them. When Tom yelled, the tortoise on the right got really agitated. He “ran” up to the nest and was shaking his head back and forth at the other tortoise, like he (or she?) was telling the other one something really important!
Just past the little sitting area at the edge of the canal, we took a shortcut over to the alligator pond.
We watched for awhile, but didn’t see any action in the pond. Nicolas thought about stirring things up by giving Tom a little shove, but wisely decided against it!
Continuing on, we came back around along the edge of the canal, where we saw the resident bald eagle.
He was up pretty high, and across the canal from us, but we still got a pretty good look. We’re still on the lookout for their nest, and we’ve heard that there are probably some eggs in it.
As we were watching the eagle, Nicolas spotted some motion in the center of the canal, moving away from us. From the distance we were at, it was hard to tell what it was, but we thought it might be an alligator. We followed along, and occasionally spotted a snout above the surface. Some kayakers came along, and with their better vantage point, they could tell that it was a couple of manatees.
We couldn’t see them too well from the trail, but as we rode our bikes back to the RV, we stopped at the Manatee Overlook, and there were 2 just hanging out by the mangrove trees. They were being pretty timid and shy, but I managed to catch one as it came to the surface.
We were all pretty warm from our bike ride, so we decided to go down to the beach for a swim to cool off. The water felt great, and was very refreshing!
After our swim, we took a walk down the beach and found a couple of fishermen being stalked by a great blue heron.
This guy was really photogenic and not bothered by me at all, so I got lots of photos of him!
At one point, I moved away to take some pictures of seagulls grabbing fish, and all of a sudden the heron flew over to where I was! It was almost like he didn’t want me taking pictures of anybody but him!
while I was busy taking pictures, Tom was talking to the fisherman, and found out that he had caught of couple of small black sharks – right there on the beach!
I got back just in time to get a picture of Bryce holding one of them!
I didn’t think they were real, but I guess they were . . . they each had a big slit down their bellies, where he had gutted them already!
That was enough to have Bryce state that he wouldn’t be going back into the water! I think he’ll change his mind, though . . .
We walked back to our bikes just in time to catch another beautiful sunset!