The first was within minutes after arriving Lovers Key, a wonderful place for picnics, hikes and family get-togethers, in Northwest Florida, with Maureen, a friend from college who moved to the area a few years back. An osprey, big-eyed and predatory, was in a tree battling a large fish caught mercilessly in its talons.
The fish was holding on by a thread but valiantly flipped and flopped in an effort to get free of the bird, one glassy eye staring up at its captor. Moments later the osprey boldly plucked the eye from the fish and dropped it at our feet. The fish went limp. Blech.
Picking and pulling at the fish, the osprey gobbled up scales and flesh in gulps. Periodically, its head darted from side to side scanning the sky for any danger, or worse, another bird that might try to take its meal.
He stopped his feasting just long enough to change his position on the limb so that he could shoot (with the velocity of a high pressure water gun) what looked like a half a cup of poop out of his rear, nearly missing visitors standing next to us.
The second kill was across a small intracoastal waterway an hour later.
Once again an osprey had nabbed a fish, however this scaly nemesis was a lot stronger than the previous victim, flipping about with such force that the bird had a hard time balancing atop a dead tree. Holding on with one talon, it held its prey with the other. To steady itself, it flapping its magnificent wings until the fish expired.
A gator (and then some)
Maureen mentioned that in her previous trips to Lover’s Key she’d seen alligators, and I was hoping we’d see one that day but it was pretty chilly and therefore a long shot.
I know gators are a dime a dozen to Floridians, but I still find them fascinating. As luck would have it, I got my wish.
We were walking on one of the trails when we saw an opening in a line of trees near the water. Two cyclists were looking at something on the ground and from the angle of their heads whatever they were looking at wasn’t far away.
Next to the two gents was a sign that said “Alligators, No Swimming.”
Side note: Isn’t it sad that in our little world one has to include the phrase “No Swimming” when a sign begins with “Alligators?” I would like to think that’s obvious, but then again, people do some seriously stupid sh**t…
We walked up to the two guys, and there she was, a six foot gator crouching in a thicket 10 feet from where we stood, her big scaly tail pointing toward us, perfectly camouflaged in the brown of the trees and twigs.
We tip-toed closer to get a better look. She twitched in response, placing herself at an angle so that she could watch us out of the corner of her eye. Then remained as motionless as stone.
That’s when Maureen saw them.
Hidden in the brush were four little foot-long baby gators. Two of the little critters moved towards the water but stopped a few feet from the edge and then they too froze like stone.
Side note #2: I was told later that I was a tad stupid being that close to a gator, especially after we saw the babies. I responded that she was in a thicket and facing away from us, and didn’t behave particularly threatened. I was then reminded that I don’t know what a threatened alligator looks like, that they can outrun humans and turn on a dime using their massive tails as a fulcrum.
I wish I could tell you that they suddenly thawed from their catatonic state, did a merry jig and then slid into the water with a splash, as that would make a much cooler ending to this post, but they didn’t. They just stood there as if stuffed.
After several minutes of photographs and staring, it was time to move on.