St. Augustine Alligator Farm
This trip was thrown together rather quickly. However I have wanted to see this facility for some time. Wayne Walther and I had just visited Jackson Hole, Wyoming in October for a very rewarding 10 days. How much travel is too much? LOL! I do not have enough money to answer that question! At any rate our fellow traveler J Robert Russell of the famous Eagles Cry Adventure Travel group indicated that he was able to make a short trip and that was all Wayne and I needed to stimulate our interest! Russ was recovering from open heart surgery and we would need to remain pretty low key! From Atlanta, GA we took off for 3 days of bird and nature photography so we thought! As it turned out we left to "enjoy" 2 and a half days of rain! We went into anything that could remotely offer a means of entertainment or food in order to wait out the rain...
So on the last morning (that we were willing to kill time there) we strode out of "Ripley's Believe It or Not" and found the bright azure skyline we were seeking. What a relief! We had all our gear in the truck and had only to drive to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm for our reward. As gentlemen of the older, more experienced "ilk," we got a nice 10 per cent discount and went on into the display area. It was a first class presentation although I have no other venue to compare. There were many different kinds of alligator, crocodile, turtle, monkey and birds there to see. I had come there with a particular desire however...
Thinking I was entering another alligator display I discovered a gorgeous rookery inhabited this time of year primarily by the Great Egret and a few Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, and one thoroughly soaked Night Heron! Now I could see why so many people had recommended this place. By this time I have seen so many alligators that while very impressive in its own right, the 200 or so alligators did nothing for me! There were Great Egrets nesting in the trees above all the alligators that one might ever care to see! The Egrets display feathers were showing and they would take turns flying about in short little hops to see what was going on with their neighbor across the little pond there. Because of the rain we had limited time, and now it was mid to late afternoon. So while my experience tells me that early morning would be preferable, this was what I had. There were 5 or 6 photographers already there upon my arrival but before I left it was easy to see that this is a very popular place to shoot. Some of these 20 or so guys had so much equipment that it looked as though they needed an assistant just to get around. Very impressive. It turns out that many of them were visiting nearby Jacksonville for the NANPA venue that started on Friday last week.
The wood storks were also there and pretty active in the top of some of the trees. They would squawk and fight each other over the best place to roost it seemed. These big birds are always referred to as being ugly whenever many people describe them but they are a lot of fun to watch. Ugly seems unkind yet understandable I suppose. There are many creatures in nature that one might call ugly. Guess you just need to realize we are all God’s creatures!
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