Momma’s Watchful Eye

Myakka alligator 7383 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator baby, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/11, 1/640 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

While spending some time with Leslie and Albert in Sarasota, Florida over the weekend, I was interested in photographing any wildlife that we could find in Myakka River State Park.  Leslie and I went there the first morning and she took me to the bird walk since I had been photographing birds for the past week.  I gave her a few tips on what I look for when shooting head shots, but we only saw a couple birds with busy backgrounds.  We drove back towards the main road and stopped at a couple egrets.  We photographed them for a few minutes and then I glanced down and saw what looked like some big yellow and black lizards of some sort.  Since I am from a desert environment and not fully knowledgeable of all the reptile species in Florida, I started to tell Leslie about the “lizards” on a culvert and looked up to see this face about 2 feet away from the culvert!

Myakka alligator 7304 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator mother, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/11, 1/320 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

At the time, I didn’t put two and two together since I hadn’t looked closely at the “lizards.”  I thought this alligator might be coming up for lunch and I was too busy trying to get a photograph of her in the harsh sunlight since she was only 5 feet away from us.  When I started looking closer, I realized that the “lizards” were actually baby alligators!  I confirmed that with Leslie who had already figured out the situation.  I was beyond excited to see this and my attention turned to the babies!

Myakka alligator 9361 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator babies, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/14, 1/250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Since they were so close to us, it was hard to capture them all in focus.  I pulled out my tripod and did several images of focusing at various distances to attempt focus stacking with the images later in Photoshop, but these little guys moved too much.  It was also difficult because of all the vegetation around the area.  I tried reaching over to move some branches from our view, but momma gator came up to the edge of the culvert.  The babies jumped into the water and swam around but soon came back to sun themselves.  At one point, I counted 18 babies in this area!

Myakka alligator 7289 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator mother and babies, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 70-200 mm at 80 mm, f/22, 1/100 sec, ISO 500, on tripod.

They were quite beautiful up close through the lens and were very agile in the water.  I read up on them on our drive back and learned that American alligators lay 35-50 eggs in a nest along the shore of a waterway in late June and early July.   She covers up the nest with vegetation while they incubate for about 65 days.  When she hears them making noises from inside the eggs, she removes the top layer of vegetation to allow them to hatch.  They are typically 6-8 inches long at birth so I estimated that these babies were probably a couple weeks or so old.

Myakka alligator 9349 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator baby, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D750, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 400 mm, f/14, 1/250 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

They were quite active and moved around a lot during the time we spent watching and photographing them.

Myakka alligator 7324 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator baby, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/11, 1/500 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

We saw them swimming in the open water, hiding among the shrubbery both in and out of the water, climbing onto the culvert, jumping off the culvert into momma’s face and climbing on top of each other.

Myakka alligator 7338 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator baby, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/11, 1/640 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

It was sad to think that 80% of these babies would be lost to other predators.

Myakka alligator 7404 September 28, 2018

Image: American alligator baby, Myakka River State Park, Florida.  Nikon D500, Nikkor 200-500 mm at 500 mm, f/11, 1/640 sec, ISO 800, hand-held.

Despite having harsh sunlight, we still had fun photographing this alligator pod.  We attempted to find the nest the next day, but a storm overnight had caused the water in the area to rise at least 2-3 feet and the alligators had moved on.  Luckily, we had some evidence of this special little family.

More information on American alligators: Here

Author: Dr. Amy Novotny

Amy Novotny is a physical therapist, marathon/ultra runner and nature photographer. She treats patients for a variety of conditions but specializes in chronic pain and calming an overactive nervous system using special diaphragmatic breathing. She has used this technique to help her qualify and run in four Boston marathons! She enjoys the outdoors and can often be found running and hiking on trails in throughout Arizona. She attempts to capture the beauty of nature with her photography both locally in Arizona and also throughout the United States. She is becoming more interested in wildlife photography and attempting to capture the emotion of animal interactions. In her spare time, Amy volunteers as a photo guide for the Arizona Highways PhotoScapes nonprofit and shares her joy of nature with others. Please feel free to contact her regarding her photography, physical therapy or running.

14 thoughts on “Momma’s Watchful Eye”

  1. This was truly “Mother Nature” in fierce protection of her young and you captured it beautifully! What fun it was to “watch her watch us”…calm and accepting, yet ready to launch at a moment’s notice. You got SO many great shots of the babies – awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. oh my gosh they are adorable. you got some great shots. I’m terrified of the gators when we’ve been thru Alligator Alley, but t hese guys look so sweet. thanks for sharing your adventures and awesome pics.

    Best wishes,

    Joanne

    Joanne Schlosser

    Developing Leaders for Healthcare’s Changing Landscape

    http://www.RisingStarsLLC.com

    Liked by 1 person

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