Thursday, October 27, 2011

AIRIE Residency: Update #4

Pinelands; Everglades National Park; October 2011

This update is associated with my 2-week-long Artists In Residence In the Everglades (AIRIE) writing and art residency.

American Alligator; Long Pine Key Lake; Everglades National Park; October 2011

Notes from Days 9, 10, & 11:
- I danced a slow-motion tango with the American alligator pictured above. The animal was only about 6 feet long (which I presume is too small to view a full-grown human as a potential meal), but this gator's eyes may have been bigger than its stomach, so to speak.

When I initially approached the lake, the alligator was about 15 yards from the shore. I squatted at the water's edge to take some photos of periphyton, spongy masses of algae and microorganisms that play a critical role in the Everglades food web. Although I focused on the periphyton, I occasionally glanced at the alligator; in so doing, I realized that it was slowly, almost imperceptibly nearing my position. When it was about 10 yards away, it submerged. From where I crouched, I could see the dark shape of its body moving more rapidly toward me. I hopped up and retreated to a safe distance. The reptile moved within 8 feet of the shoreline and surfaced, its third eyelids retracting. It stared at me; I stared back. "Are you serious?," I asked, as though it understood. "Are you eyeing me, buddy?"

After a few minutes, the alligator submerged and moved away, to a spot near its original position. I approached the water, checking carefully to make sure I wasn't overlooking any other gators in the area, and again squatted. Moments after I did so, my cold-blooded friend sunk beneath the water's surface and moved toward me, as before.

This dance was repeated several times: the gator approaching, me retreating, the animal moving away, me approaching and crouching, repeat. I have to conclude that, when hunkered down, I appeared to be of a size that a hungry, 6-foot gator could take. The animal was moving into a position from which it could strike. While I doubt that it could kill me easily, I've no doubt that it could do me serious harm.

I decided to leave the area. As the old adage has it, no photo of periphyton is worth loosing a hand.

Periphyton; Everglades National Park; October 2011

- Birds of special interest these three days: a peregrine falcon hunting at a field's edge, just outside the park; a common ground dove; and a barred owl that calls most evenings from a tree outside of my dormitory.

Rain Cloud Opening; Anhinga Trail; Everglades National Park; October 2011

Photo credits: all photos, Hungry Hyaena (Christopher Reiger), 2011

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