Baby Alligator, Heron & Puddles

This morning started out with a thunderstorm.  Ron got the awning down just in time.  Then we were without electricity for a few hours.

Boy fishing with small alligator trying to get his bait

We were sitting outside having coffee when a lone Canada goose walked right into our campsite and honked and honked repeatedly.  I thought he was probably trying to tell us something, as animals in distress will sometimes do that.  Since we didn’t have any idea what the problem was, he took off, honking constantly, and walked the entire length of the canal near our site.

Baby alligator

It finally dawned on me.  Geese mate for life.  He was alone.  I bet he was looking for his mate, and I’ll also bet an alligator got him or her.  So sad, if that was the case.

Later this afternoon, we were walking the dogs when we saw a boy fishing from the bank.  We struck up a conversation with his dad.  Then we learned that a small alligator was messing with the boy’s fish line, maybe trying to steal his bait.

Here’s looking at you!

His Dad called out, “Don’t you try to catch that alligator!  Don’t you try to catch that alligator!”

I had Ron hold the dogs, then walked down the bank to get a closer look.  Sure enough there was a baby alligator, with just his nose above the water.  As I watched, more of the head appeared.  And soon the body also came into view.  The dad told me that when they come in at night, the boat lights reflect off so many alligator eyes that it looks like someone strung Christmas lights.

Baby alligator’s body comes into view

What is really scary is that this is the “safe” part of the water that I was letting Sheba play in up until a couple of days ago.

Sheba apparently senses that something is wrong with the water because she hasn’t tried to head into it lately.  However, rain puddles in the street are fair game!

Sheba finds a safe rain puddle in the street

Tonight is our last night here at Cotton Hill COE.  It’s been one of the most beautiful places we’ve stayed this far south.

We’ll be back.  But probably in the winter when the alligators are hibernating!

Walter F. George lake at sunset

Fish Eagles, Alligator Encounter & Deer

View of fish eagle nest and Casita from water

[On edit, Peggy, of Camping Tales, identified the “fish eagles” for me as ospreys.]

We started our day with a sweet little worship service at the picnic pavilion.  Two brothers have been coming here on Sunday mornings for the past 16 years to provide this service for campers.   We sang some of our favorite songs, then one of the brothers gave a talk on the passage in Ecclesiastes, to every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.  He tied it into the good and bad seasons in all of our lives and how they are appointed by God for specific purposes — the good times for joy, and the bad times to develop different aspects of our character.

This looks like gator habitat!

After the service, I took Sunny and Sheba for a walk.  I usually head for the clear water near our campsite.  But this morning I wanted to see different scenery.  I came to a little canal that borders Sandy Creek.  It was loaded with water vegetation and I thought, This looks like alligator habitat.

I was very hesitant to allow Sheba in the water, but she was determined she was going in.  I spotted a small area free of vegetation, and kept an eagle eye on her.  Then I saw it.  A small alligator (about 3-1/2

Young alligator on the edge of the canal

feet) was swimming directly toward Sheba — fast!  I yanked her out of the water and ran up the bank, hoping the gator wouldn’t follow us.  It didn’t.  WHEW!

Lesson to self:  If it looks like gator habitat, it probably IS gator habitat!

Closeup of alligator’s head

Later, dogs safely penned at the campsite, I went back to see if I could find the gator and photograph him.  I found it in the grass on the bank of the canal.

Both parents on the nest

Later a neighbor saw me straining to get a shot of a large nest in one of the cypress trees growing out in the water.  He asked if we would like to go out in his boat to get a closer view of it — and he said that there were also other nests out on a nearby cypress island.

I asked him what kind of birds they were, and he answered “fish eagles.”  I have never heard of them before, and am guessing that it’s a local name for them.

The pontoon boat ride was incredible.  How amazing to be in the wind on the water — in the shade!  Ken and Sharon took us past the best nesting areas and explained how the main body of water is about 20 feet deep, but the cypress tree islands grow up in about 3 feet of water.

Fish eagle nest on cypress island

One nest actually had young in it, but I was unable to get a picture of them.  I also saw one large gray and white speckled egg in another nest, but couldn’t focus my camera properly to photograph it.

As if all those fantastic photo opportunities weren’t enough, this afternoon I saw two deer across the canal near our Casita.  One was in the water.  The other was deeper in the underbrush.

One parent flying away

This was one of those days that will live in my memory as a highlight of this camping year.

Deer in the water

Deer in the underbrush

Ken and Sharon and their boat

Leaving Gail’s House

We left Mom’s house and arrived at Gail’s house on Friday, April 2.

Aliner tucked behind azaleas

Aliner tucked behind azaleas

After our great dry camping initiation at Juniper Springs, we weren’t worried about going without hookups for a couple of days.  So we tucked the Aliner way out of the way under a giant live oak tree, screened by azaleas.

Gail and Mike weren’t planning to pick up the U-Haul until the next morning.  So that night they took us out for a wonderful all-you-can-eat rib dinner.

Early the next morning their friend Pete arrived to help load the truck.   He had worked until 3:30 the night before, so it was a heroic act for him to show up to help.

The Mike and Gail picked up the truck and the guys went right to work.  I had thought that I’d have more to do, but they were so efficient that Gail and I mostly visited with the people who stopped by to say goodbye.

The new owner (also Pete) brought his big lab mix dog with him to introduce him to his new home.  Every time Pete let the dog off his leash, he headed straight for the river and jumped in for a swim.  We warned him to be careful, because years ago an alligator had gotten one of Gail’s dogs.

Also, the next door neighbor came to say goodbye.  Funny, Gail had lived there for years and had never met her until recently when her husband was hospitalized with a serious illness.  They both regretted wasting all those years they could have been friends.

The U-Haul ready to roll

The U-Haul ready to roll

Then Jeannie (my baby sister) and Darrell showed up.  They hadn’t been able to make it to Gail’s goodbye party the previous weekend, but were here to make sure they got to say goodbye, too.

So we visited almost all day, and had pizzas delivered for dinner — while they guys kept on loading the truck.

After everyone left, Gail still had a few small things to pack.  And she wanted to leave the house spic and span.  So I vacuumed and she mopped.   By then it was late, so I headed for the camper and bed.  She continued packing until early in the morning.

Aliner and U-Haul ready to leave

Aliner and U-Haul ready to leave

The next morning, after breakfast from Hardees, they locked the door for the last time and headed west to Texas.

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