Tripod holes 12

baby American alligator Alligator mississippiensis alongside mother's tail, Shark Valley Florida
N 25°44’40.24″ W 80°45’59.67″ Google Earth Location

The location of today’s image is, well, within a few hundred meters of exact, let’s say. It was taken in Shark Valley, a visitor access point on Tamiami Trail (Rt 41) to the sprawling Everglades National Park, on a walking path that ran alongside a looonng, straight channel, and there are no landmarks along it, anywhere, to place even an approximate position. I just know I was a decent hike away from the parking area, at least a kilometer, but beyond that I couldn’t say, and wouldn’t recognize the precise point even if I walked it again while it looked identical to when I was there, which was 23 years ago this month.

Notably, this was not only very close to the walking trail, there was nothing preventing me from stepping forward and picking up this little guy, which is a very young American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis.) Well, okay, nothing except the mother curled around it, and my common sense which told me that this would be the stupidest thing I could try. I was actually a decent distance away using the Sigma 170-500 on the tripod, remaining as unobtrusive as possible and keeping a wary eye on the mother, but they had chosen an open spot way too close to the trail for their nap. Several other babies within the brood had popped into the water at my approach, but this one at least was being as mellow as the mother, who gave no sign that she even knew I was there, perhaps to lull me into a false, stupid-tourist sense of security. I wasn’t biting, and so, neither was she.

They are remarkably cute at this age, and I really need to return and capture video, because still photos can’t convey the little sounds they make, like newborn puppies. This was my second encounter with babies, the first being at Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, on the same route some seventy kilometers to the west, a year or two before – again, way too close to the path. It would be nice if I could count on finding them at either location on returning, but I suspect both instances were blind luck. Still, I’m going to try again, soon*

* Don’t ask me for a specific definition of this word. Before the next transit of Venus, at least.

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