“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever remains to them?” Rose Kennedy
And a Hissing Alligator
It was a busy day for my son, who had chores, errands and Community Theater rehearsal – He’s playing Marley in an upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol.” But he chose to play hooky from them for a couple of hours on the last day of my visit with his Texas Gulf Coast family.
We two passionate birders stuck out of the house early to continue our birding adventures, which had been rudely interrupted the day before by a heavily weeping storm. This day, which shone bright and clear with bird song echoing from the trees, the two of us headed to San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge.
The birds were out in good numbers this morning, we noted, as their musical tweets came through the open windows of our vehicle. On the drive we saw a field of cattle egrets, which like yesterday’s scissor-tailed flycatchers were late in migrating south for the winter.
A great blue heron stood as still as a statue near a pond that we passed, and a magnificent broad-winged hawk atop a tall pole stayed in place as my son stopped and backed up the car so we could get a better look at it through our binoculars.
I had only seen one other broad-winged hawk before so I was especially thrilled at this sighting. Our drive also turned up a flock of red-winged blackbirds and a few kestrels, which were just migrating back into the area for the winder.
At the refuge, we walked the refuge’s Bobcat Woods boardwalk, where we saw cardinals, ruby-crowned kinglets, eastern phoebes, red-bellied woodpeckers and yellow-bellied sapsuckers.
The plants, tree leaves and moss were thick along the boardwalk, letting us hear more than we saw. I surprised myself, however, that by sound I identified an orange-crowned warbler, whose sweet, single note call is so different from that of the single call of a yellow-rumped warbler.
Also identified by sound was a red-shouldered hawk, whose high-pitched keah, keah screeches cannot be mistaken for anything else. We both spotted, at the same time, a cute belted-kingfisher flying low above a small stream. We both pointed and uttered the word “Look” at the same time, then we simply grinned at each other.
It was when we had left the boardwalk, headed toward the viewing platform of the Wolfweed Wetlands that we were startled by a strange sound. I at first thought it might be a sudden gust of wind that had stirred the foliage.
Lewis, walking toward the sound to investigate, suddenly jumped back. It’s an alligator and it’s hissing at us. It certainly was, I saw, as I stepped closer to the small pond so I could take its picture. It wasn’t a big alligator; still we didn’t long in the area.
“I’ve never before been hissed at by an alligator,” Lewis said.
A little bit later, in another area of the refuge, Lewis was looking for rails in a reed-filled pond when he heard something popping into the water. He thought at first it was turtles, but on closer examination saw that it was baby alligators.
He left that area pretty quickly, perhaps because from the viewing platform that had looked out over a huge wetlands area we had spotted a second alligator – and it wasn’t small at all.
Bean’s Pat: Jamaica Bay Shorebirds http://tinyurl.com/l83rlso A great birding photo blog