Finally got around to taking a few hours away from my cave (home office/studio) and went biking with friends in Shark Valley in Florida’s Everglades. Shark Valley has a wide, paved 15 mile loop through some of the most spectacular river of grass that you can find in the Everglades. It is home and mating and nesting grounds to all kinds of birds, reptiles, plants, flowers, trees, butterfiles, bees, turtles, and I’m sure more that I’ve yet to see.
My friends were focused on getting endorphins revved up and I knew I was there to breathe in as much of nature’s energy as I could take and get as many photos as possible. Consequently, in the time they rode the 15 mile loop and circled back to find me (I baked cupcakes and they were in my car, reassurance that my friends would not abandon me, considering their fondness for cupcakes;-) I had only progressed to mile marker 4. But, I had over a hundred shots. Absolutely entrancing to me to feel the sun on my face, hear the bird calls, what sounded like 20 pound bull frogs and see so many beautiful creatures in their natural habitat (although I always think how tame they are and it must be because they are accustomed to seeing humans on a daily basis).
I got to see, and photograph, woodstorks up much closer than I’d ever seen them before. Wasn’t really sure what they were at first. Looked like ancient creatures, big, bearded birds. And lots of herons or that’s what I’m calling them until I do a bit more research. I’m including a detail of one blue heron and will be posting full, edited images within a few weeks. But, the end of the day was definitely the ultimate photo op…. I stopped for one last picture (or 7 or more) of some birds starting to nest in a tree very near to the parking lots. There was a very large alligator below the birds and near the edge of the path so I started to shoot a picture of the gator and after the first click, I heard a LOUD CRUNCH SLAP sound and while my mouth was dropping open kept shooting as the gator chomped down on a very large turtle. This all happened in just a few seconds. Think I’m still a bit shaky from being so close and witnessing what I usually only see on nature tv shows. I was shooting with a new to me, but very old camera, so the quality is not what I’d hoped for but these certainly show the action.
Do visit our incredible nature areas, national parks, and preserves, but please remember, even though the alligators appear to be tame or friendly looking, they are wild, free creatures and are very capable of snapping a big turtle into pieces with one swift chomp!