Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Phoebe's First Alligator

Wednesday, February 24, 2010
An idealized portrayal of Phoebe's first alligator.

I'm taking a bit of artistic license here in using the above image of an alligator to represent my daughter Phoebe's first encounter with one of these large aquatic, carnivorous reptiles. The actual photo of her life 'gator is the one below, which Ms. Phoebe digiscoped herself. [Special thanks to the eagle-eyed Lisa White, a native Florida cracker, who spotted this gator for us in a canal at Merritt Island NWR.]

The actual first gator.

It was not a very satisfying look at the first gator. It only had its head above water. After about three minutes, it removed even that small bit of itself, slowing sinking into the murky water. The three of us spent the rest of the morning driving around, certain we'd see another gator—perhaps one out on a bank soaking in the sun on this very cool Florida morning. But we were denied.

So we went to the beach.

Soaking our feet in the chilly Atlantic—they went numb in about 30 seconds. Photo by Lisa White.

Two days later Phoebe and I were headed back to the beach when we saw a turn off for Eco Pond Road. I'd remembered seeing and photographing a massive alligator on that road two years before, so we turned off for a side gator hunt. Just two miles later, I spotted our gator, lounging in the back of a lagoon, covered in duckweed. I told Phoebe to get out and stand on the bank in front of the gator (which was at least 60 feet away) so I could take her photo with her first look at a complete American alligator.
The gator is half in and half out of the shade along the far bank of the lagoon.

She agreed to pose for the photo, but could not help cringing when I raised the camera to my eye and said "Awesome! He's coming closer!"

A closer look at Phoebe's first full-view gator.

After manatees, seeing an alligator was next on Phoebe's most-wanted list. The fact that we also added bobcat and armadillo was icing on the already rich and delicious cake.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my good friends at The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival for inviting Phoebe and me down to Titusville, and for making us feel so welcome. It was an unforgettable experience for us and it reminded me how completely lucky I am to be a Dad.
Our last gator of the trip, spotted somewhere near Christmas, FL. That's Phoebe being chomped.


On February 24, 2010 at 6:34 PM Julie Zickefoose said...


On February 24, 2010 at 6:51 PM Birding is Fun! said...

Classic dad joke about the gator coming closer. Loved it!

On February 24, 2010 at 7:41 PM cyberthrush said...

...and Phoebe does an awesome cringe!!