The sequence about to be seen here comes from our trip to Florida, back in the early days of the blog, and I mentioned then that I was going to scan in a few more images from that trip, so you can see how well I schedule things.
The season had been lean for rain, and this was most visible while we were at Big Cypress Bend down in the Everglades. While previous trips had netted some great shots, this time around many of the channels were dry and other pools were little more than mud and algae – not exactly an impressive setting for photos. An interesting trait about the Everglades is, despite the constant presence of water throughout hundreds of square kilometers, it usually maintains a good flow and is fresh and clear, not brackish or stagnant as you might expect. Usually.
While some of the resident American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) might have been deterred by this, there were still a few to be found, though I imagine their subsurface hunting was limited a bit. One in particular was displaying a peculiar behavior that I have still not determined the purpose of, and it did so often enough that I captured two sequences of it.
Starting from the typical gator pose, it would raise its head and upper body out of the water, almost as if stretching, then lean over…
… and splash!, it would slap its head sideways back into the water quite forcefully. As you can see, the water wasn’t quite as muddy as it looked, but also was remarkably shallow, proven by both the brown mud trail that the gator stirred up in its passage and its ability to even raise out of the water in this manner. Chances are, it was driving at least a little bit into the mud bottom as it thrashed its head down.
I can only guess at the purpose of this. It had much the same appearance as whales breaching, and often they do so in an attempt to dislodge parasites. I might have favored this, especially something irritating within an ear, except that the gator seemed to be doing it in both directions. Stirring up potential prey, like turtles, from the mud? Bored silly? Pretending it was a whale? I really couldn’t begin to tell you what this was accomplishing. But it was at least more activity than I have often witnessed from alligators.