ALLIGATORS AT BRAZOS BEND STATE PARK page 8
This page was born 2/06/2003.  Rickubis designed it.  (such as it is.) Last update: 06/08/2003
Images and contents on this page copyright © 2002, 2003 Richard M. Dashnau

 Here are my other alligator pages:                  OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1  Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 2  Spiders at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 4
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 5
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 6
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 7

This is page 8 of my continuing observations of alligators ( and some other animals) at Brazos Bend State Park.

September 15, 2002  It rained most of the day today at the park. I took quite a few pictures, but didn't see a lot on the trail (I'm working on more "spider stuff", and will be posting more of it soon).  However, on the Spillway Trail, near the "Alligator Nesting" Plaque, a 6-foot alligator was up on the trail. Its head was towards the water, and the alligator didn't move, although it did move a few steps closer to the water when some bikes came by. I looked everywhere for young alligators, and saw one about 15 feet away from there foraging in the water. This young alligator was a little over 12 inches long. Later, when I returned, I saw that the 6-footer had moved off the trail. I started photographing a golden silk spider next to where she'd been,  when two park visitors came by, asking about alligators. As I was explaining what had happened before, there was a large splash from the opposite shore, and an alligator (which I thought was the same one) swam out towards us and stopped. It (she?) stayed submerged about 20 feet away, and watched us with just her head on the surface.   It seemed to *me* that she was defending something.

November  03, 2002 Still ANOTHER cool, wet weekend!!!.  I'll just say here that the water is high throughout the park--higher than it's been for a long time.  The cold, rainy weather kept me from getting many pictures today.  However, over the week before, I finally decided to stop further attempts to recover more of the Alligator Gar bones, and work with what I had. I completed this, and built a case for it. I brought the spine to the park, where it was set behind the skull.  I left the park without taking any pictures of my two projects together! So, maybe next week.  For now, I'm going to relate something I saw a few weeks ago at the park. And besides, I'm sure everyone is asking: "Hey, Rick! What about the alligators?"
The picture YEP I'M CONFUSED (below) is a frame from a series of short video clips I shot with the Olympus C-700.
I was at New Horseshoe lake, and talking with some visitors about the fair-sized alligator floating near the center. There was a larger one on the far shore. As I was standing there...perhaps 30 minutes or so the larger alligator sort of "drifted" a little along the shoreline.  Then it started to move towards my left, still near the shoreline. As it did this, the smaller alligator (perhaps around 8-10 feet; the larger one was 10-12 feet) slowly turned and began moving towards the larger one. That's when I started filming, since I was sure the two alligators were aware of each other, and were moving *because* of each other.  As the two alligators neared each other, I started talking to the visitors, and was telling them of probable social signals we would see--that is, perhaps a snout raised, or the tail-arch and sunken back posture--that might signal submission or aggression.
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 YEP, I'M CONFUSED                PUSH 1                        PUSH 2                          PUSH 3                         PUSH 4
However, as the alligators got even closer to each other, NONE of this happened. As far as I could see, there were no visible signals at all!
The smaller alligator "swam across the bow" of the larger one, it even seemed like there was a slight bump (PUSH 1, above), and then it swam in front (PUSH 2, above), and then turned towards the larger alligator and moved alongside (PUSH 3, above).  Finally.  the smaller alligator moved so its head was near the base of the larger one's tail, and the larger alligator moved away and towards the center of the lake( PUSH 4, above). It stopped after swimming about 20 feet away from the smaller alligator. It was almost as if the two alligators had exchanged guard positions. As in all non-violent interactions between alligators, the movements were slow and evenly-timed.
  To see the 3 clips showing this interaction, click the following links: clip1(517 kb)  clip2(491 kb)  clip3(514 kb)
November  15, 2002 For the picture below (TOUGH MOM)I'm going back a few weeks. Ever since the high water, some animals in the park have had to move around a bit.  One of them was a female alligator that had made a nest on one of the islands near the spillway trail. This "family" was visible from time to time near this nest on the shore of one of these islands. These islands were submerged, and the female and babies (the eggs hatched successfully!) were forced to come over near the trail. The female alligator will defend the nest-and after that, the babies-quite aggressively, for about 2 years. So, this female was forced to allow her babies up on the shore near the trail. She was always very close, and if anyone approached to closely to her babies, she'd hiss, and otherwise make it known that she wasn't pleased. This was noted, and the yellow "CAUTION" tape was place near the area to warn people of the situation. On this day (Nov. 10), I counted 15 young alligators scattered around. I thought this picture summed up the situation well. It's hard to see at this 320 x 240 resolution, but one of the babies is on the mother's back. Click here to see a larger image.
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                  WHERE ARE THESE...REINDEER?                                 TOUGH MOM
December 22, 2002 It's a few days before Christmas.  Water levels are fairly high throughout the park. Today showed promise, but didn't get as warm as it could have due to clouds in the afternoon.  However, a few large alligators did climb ashore to bask in Elm Lake, and along Pilant Slough.  The alligator in the picture above ( WHERE ARE THESE--REINDEER?) was on one of the islands in Elm Lake,  directly across from pier number 2.  It's always good to see them.
HAPPY, SAFE HOLIDAY SEASON TO Y'ALL FROM RICKUBIS!!!

January 12, 2003   Those of you up North won't find this much of anything. We've had a front of cold air come through. It's been in the 30's and 40's, and just generally lousy weather. The picture below (I'VE FELT BETTER) shows the Creekfield Lake mother alligator at her post. Those of you who have to babysit children already know how difficult it can be. Imagine having to lay around all day in near-freezing water while baby-sitting! Ok, don't imagine it.  The picture below (YUCH) shows the thermometer affixed to a support outside the Visitor Center/Nature Center (VC/NC).

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          I'VE FELT BETTER                 WELL, THAT'S JUST....YUCH.            ONE TOUGH MOTHER
January 19, 2003   It's still kind of chilly around here...but not compared to up North. This morning, there were small patches of ice visible around logs and vegetation at Creekfield Lake. I was there at between 9 and 10 am. The air got a bit warmer through the day. Sometime in the afternoon, I heard that the mother alligator was visible, as well as one of the babies. I couldn't get out there until after 4:00 pm, and by then the sun was hidden by an overcast sky. So, the air temperature started to drop again. I was only able to see the mother alligator. As I watched, she raised her head out of the water, and appeared to be searching a nearby clump of vegetation; I thought, perhaps for her offspring. The picture above (TOUGH MOTHER)  again features this female alligator. I felt that the fact she was visible even though the water temperature was near freezing was worth noting.

February 16-17, 2003 The picture below just shows me in the parking lot on the 16th.   Then, on the 17th, I woke up for work, and suddenly remember I had the day off! D'OH!  Wait a minute...the DAY OFF! So, I went to the park. The rice-cutting project is still active, and I'm trying to get out there before the weather warms up. Here I am, up to my hips in the Brazos Bend State Park Treat (RICE-A-RICKIE, below).  Unfortunately, we may have started this project too late to avoid bothering the alligators, since they've started moving around, and have also been observed feeding. (UH, OH...., below).  This alligator is on one of the Elm Lake islands we'd hoped to clear.
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               SOME OLD GUY                               RICE-A-RICKIE                     UH,OH. AREN'T YOU EARLY?

February 23, 2003 Admit it. Y'all have missed the alligators showing up here. Well, the picture below (BIG ONE) should make everyone happy. (Ok. It makes me happy, and this is my page, so there it is.) I'm standing by a large (about 11-foot) alligator on the west side of Elm Lake. He stayed there all day, trying to warm himself. This alligator had many scars, probably souvenirs of old battles with other alligators. Here are a few close-ups of his head.
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   OLD WARRIOR        OBLIQUE VIEW         THAT'S BONE!       CRACKED BONE?      FROM THE SIDE
That's right. Among his scars is this section of his lower jaw showing exposed bone. It appears healed (well, except for the exposed bone), and infection free. However, this old warrior seems to have other damage, since his eyes never fully opened in the three hours I was near him. He'll probably lose his territory soon to a stronger, younger alligator.
After spending some hours with this one, I was able to make my way to the long Pilant Slough bridge, where I'd heard an alligator had been seen. Well, he was there all right--lying on the bridge like some reptilian toll-keeper. See the pictures below. Here'sa short video clip of me walking up and stopping far from this alligator. (flv video 408kb)
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   WHAT IS YOUR QUEST?   WHAT DO I DO NOW?      THERE HE GOES!                 BIG ONE
Notice how widely opened this one's eyes are, compared to the other alligator.  This alligator finally moved off the bridge as I watched. I thought I'd filmed a video clip, but alas, only got this one image. Watching his sleek, black length sliding leisurely off the bridge was a perfect end for the day.

March 02, 2003 Ok, so today was overcast, and kind of cool. I helped clear another Elm Lake island of plants to allow alligators to bask, and be seen while they do it.  The day just seemed like it would be one of those "slow animal life days"--uncomfortably cool (to me), grey, and windy.  I decided, around 3 o'clock, to head out and see if the nearby mother alligator was out. Well, as the picture below (KIDS AND A SMILE) shows, she was!  Some of the young ones were also visible, which was surprising. Yes, there are four alligators in the picture. Two on her head, one in the right background, and one visible directly between the heads of the two on the mother's head. By the way, the two on her head are "adopted",  that is, they aren't hatched from her eggs. Below (MOM AGAIN)  is another picture of the mother with her young. She'd moved some, and one of the babies on her head has moved to inside the curve of her tail. It was quite cool, and I wonder if the young ones climb on the mother in this weather because she has been gathering heat. She may be warmer than the water and the surrounding air. Something else to find out about, I guess.
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                              KIDS AND A SMILE                       MOM AGAIN
March 08-09, 2003 THE SUN!! This weekend was excellent!  Donna, that woman who likes to be around me for some reason (actually, I know the reason, but I'm not tellin') , was disappointed that she missed seeing the American Bitterns calling last weekend.  So, we went out to Brazos Bend State Park Saturday to see if we could get lucky again. We saw a few bitterns during the day, but no "glooping". However, at around 4:00, we got lucky at Creekfield Lake. I had a video camera with me, but he was so far away, that the sound wasn't clear. Here are two clips of what I saw.(gloop2(547 kb)  splat2 (644 kb) ) The second clip illustrates with sound the bittern's landing technique, but you have to listen carefully (I couldn't help laughing). The image below (MORE GLOOPING) is a frame from the first clip.
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    MORE GLOOPING          HE LIKES IT!              HE'S AWAKE!           RELAXED SNAKE
March 09  was the best day we've seen here in a long time. I got to the park at about 8:30, and was on the trail by Horseshoe Lake around 8:50.  As I started on the trail, the alligators began bellowing. There were at least 3 on Elm Lake, and then I heard more of them off in the distance, either in Pilant Lake or way out at 40 Acre Lake.
While they were still bellowing, I reached one of the areas where I've helped cut down some wild rice on the shoreline. That "old warrior" male alligator was up on the bank, and that's the picture above (HE LIKES IT!). The next image (HE'S AWAKE) is a close-up of his head.  Next, I moved on to the next area we've cleared in the rice, where a six-foot alligator was ashore. I waited for him to cross the trail, but some visitors came up and scared him into the water. Before that, however, a sharp-eyed park visitor noticed two water snakes lying on some of the cut down rice. The image above (RELAXED SNAKE) shows one of them. I believe these both were Yellow Bellied Water Snakes, but an not certain. Water Snakes are sometimes hard to tell apart (well, for ME.) Please note that they were definitely NOT Water Moccasins.  The rest of the day was just great!

March 16, 2003 THE SUN--wasn't out much this morning. I got to the park about 8:00am, and I walked around wondering where all the alligators were.  As I set up the tripod and video camera, I looked and listened for any activity. I thought I heard the "gloop" of an American Bittern, and I found one where the sound came from. As I was filming him walking and preening (but NOT glooping. Grrrr! Of course not, he was close enough to hear.); some alligators started bellowing not far from me. The heck with the Bittern! (Just for a while. Bittern fans please refrain from flaming me.) I hurried down the trail until I found him. A HUGE male was bellowing (but about 50 yards away), and about 10 feet to the left and parallel to him, a smaller (probably female) alligator was bellowing with him. I'll be reviewing the video footage to see if this is audible at all. As I filmed, I ran out of tape, and so attempted a clip with the C-700. I was able to clean up the sound, and increase the volume on this clip. As time allows, I'll see if I can use any of the footage I shot with my camcorder. Until then, here (flv video, 565kb) is a clip of the male alligator in the RICKUBISCAM this week. Aside from these two, other alligators were seen bellowing at various spots throughout the park. Alligators were everywhere, and I saw more bitterns, but none tried to sing for me.  Later the sun came out and the day turned out to be one of those great ones. Well, actually any day where I can see and hear a large alligator bellow is a great one.
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  BELLOW AND WATERDANCE    BIG  ONE REARS UP              REARS UP AGAIN              WATERDANCE AGAIN
I made digital video files from the footage I took with the camcorder. As I thought, the sound quality of the clips was lessened by the distance of the alligators from me. I cleaned up the audio tracks, and amplified them a little, so that the bellowing was clearer. Although the bellowing is loud, the background noise against the microphone (wind, etc.) makes it hard to hear. I apologize for the need for this adjustment of the original footage.  The four pictures above are frames from the video. After I took the first short movie, I moved behind him between his bouts of bellowing. I was trying to get a better position. I was lucky to be able to get this between the trees. The first two images ( WATERDANCE, REARS UP ) are from CLIP 1 (flv video 1198kb); and the second two images (UP AGAIN, DANCE AGAIN) are from CLIP 2 (flv video 485kb).  The bellow, as can be seen, is a cyclic series of movements and sounds.  Notice how both sets of pictures show the alligator in almost the same postures.

March 23, 2003 I got out to the park early today, but didn't get to hear any alligator bellowing.  However, I did get to catch this big alligator (around and ten a half feet long) crossing one of the trails. If you'd like to see the video clip, click here. (flv video no sound 1,617kb).  This alligator is in no hurry! See TRAIL MEASURING, below.
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                                                           JUST MEASURING THE TRAIL

April 13, 2003 Today was one of those days where everything seemed to be moving around the park.  Snakes (particularly Broadbanded Water Snakes) were seen in many places. I saw six or seven myself!  But, this week I'm going to talk about alligators (some surprise, right?), and the behavior known as a "headslap".  I've been watching one large male for some time, mostly because he happens to be in the area I watch over. This is the same male that has had the scarring, and damage to his head and legs that I've shown here. He also seems to have one eye impaired.
This morning, he started at his usual early spot, and he stayed there until around 9:45. Then, he moved to the island area of Elm Lake, almost directly across from his "early spot".  This was about 50 yards from me.  As I watched him (with a video camera), he started posturing. That is, he started arching his tail and lifting his head. (see DO NOT MESS, below; or the clip here flv video 852kb).  Next, after some slow tail swishing, he did his headslap (see SLAP-HEAD UP, SLAP-HEAD DOWN, below, or the clip here flv video 820kb). (compare this with two other headslaps that I've shown on these pages, Alligator Page 5, Alligator Page 6). In all three, there was what seemed to be a short "grunt" just before the headslap. . (unfortunately, technical difficulties have severely degraded the sound quality of these new clips. I've cleaned them up the best I could. They were almost inaudible due to static for some reason.) Immediately after the headslap, another alligator began bellowing from the other side of the wild rice in front of "my" alligator.  This, in turn, caused "my" alligator to begin an aggressive bellowing posture (see TIME TO KICK below, or the clip here flv video 864kb). Then he bellowed once, and when he was answered (again from behind the rice), he began "tail swishing" but this was not the more leisurely "display" tail swish. This rapid tail movement propelled him forward, and he gave an answering bellow as he was moving.  Observe in the clip how belligerent he seems, as he pushes his way into the rice. I expected to hear some commotion, but there was no violence evident from within the rice.  After about 15 minutes, the "scarred one" leisurely swam back out, and that was the end of it.
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 DO NOT MESS WITH ME        SLAP--HEAD UP             SLAP--HEAD DOWN         TIME TO KICK SOME 'GATOR BUTT!
There is a VERY interesting and informative work; SOCIAL SIGNALS OF ADULT AMERICAN ALLIGATORS, by Garrick, Lang and Herzog (a bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, issued May 25, 1978. )  Among the social signals listed is  headslapping.  The authors list a number of different possible situations for headslapping. There are also several additional signals (vocalizations; audible noises made with the body--such as bubbles; and movements) which can alter the intent or information conveyed. The only concept I'll mention at this time is this: "known dominant animals headslap more frequently than subdominants" (page 177). From what I've observed, I believe this male to be the dominant animal for this corner of the lake. By the way, it's a good possibility that the other two clips I've shown before were of the same alligator. In any case, they were a large male that was inside of this "territory".
Pretty complex behavior for what some people think are a "big dumb lizard".

April 19, 2003 Today, Earth Day was celebrated at the park. As part of my contribution to the effort, I was signed up to lead an "alligator hike" at 2:00 pm. I was able to get out to Elm Lake at about 11:30. As I was passing the last pier, I heard another headslap from near the same area that I filmed last weekend. I approached a pod of baby alligators (about 14 lined up on a log) and their mother in the water right at the trail intersection. Just as I got there, and was about six feet from the mother, it took a "bellowing" posture, and gave one short, low bellow.   Almost straight across was a male alligator (of pretty good size), and I thought it was the same male as last week. However, I checked on the lower side of the trail, near the downstream end of the culvert into Pilant Lake, and *there* was the "Old Warrior" (so it obviously wasn't him on the by the islands in Elm Lake)  As I was interpreting for the group of visitors in that area (between the babies and aggressive mother; the "showy" male; and the old warrior, there was a lot going on, hence the group of people) (also, DON'T get me started talking about alligators, heh, heh)  an alligator smaller than the protective female (by at least a 1.5 feet) approached her from the center of the water, moving straight in. It paused for a few minutes, then slowly continued in the same straight line. The female moved out to meet this alligator. She gave one low, bubbly "GROAK!", and the smaller alligator stopped immediately. Then, it turned and slowly moved off.  I've seen females make this sound at larger males that seemed to be trying to court them, and after the sound, the males would lose interest. I suspect that the smaller alligator was a male that was approaching the female with amorous intentions. I don't believe that the babies alligators on the log (and the few in the water) were that attractive as prey to bring the smaller alligator in on such a straight course.
After this little incident, I described the "headslap" and associated situation and posture, and then talked about bellowing. I described the bellowing posture , and as I did, I considered all the signaling that had been going on, and decided to check on the "Old Warrior" again, since I thought he might respond to these displays and challenges. I had just gotten in front of him when he attained the position I'd just described (see FULL LENGTH, below. This image is linked to a 640x 480 image), and began bellowing!  Was that cool, or WHAT?  Take my word for it.  It was!
Of course, Rick (yes, that's me)  was going to be too busy to carry his video camera around, so of course he didn't have it with him.The middle image below is cropped from the original photo I shot. (Alas!  My Olympus C-700 has developed problems, and has been sent in for repair. I hope I can get it fixed soon. Until then I have to use my backup camera. )
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  ----THE OLD WARRIOR--FULL LENGTH             CLOSE UP                        WHAT'S UP?
Considering that for the last few weeks, all we've seen this alligator do is lay on the shore and look ill, I was very pleased to see him still active.

April 27, 2003 Today,  I was at the end of Elm Lake by 8:30 A.M.. When I got there, there was a large male down in Pilant Lake, surrounded--at distances between 12 to 30 feet--by five or six smaller alligators. As I watched for about 3 hours (while interpreting for people passing by) I saw this large male foraging among the weeds. I had the video camera trained on him most of the time. The male would occasionally lay very still, then without warning he'd lift his head and upper body about a foot from the water, and do a sideways diving grab. I never got to see what he'd catch. I couldn't leave my camera on all this time, and it seemed that as soon as I'd turn it off, he'd strike. Also, he'd occasionally do the "sideways prey herding" technique I've described before (see my Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 6 ), and use his body to form a small area against the shore. Then, he'd do a leisurely prey-grabbing move. At about 9:30,one of the smaller alligators crossed the trail. (see GORGEOUS, below and flv video 1176 kb).  At about 12:00  he formed the "bellow position". I called some nearby visitors over and turned my camera towards him.
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    GORGEOUS!                  TOGETHER                I'M TOP REPTILE!         GOT SOME FLOSS?       YOU AVAILABLE?
Then, without the customary bobbing, his back started to vibrate (I thought I could feel my body shake!) and then he gave one short bellow (see TOP REPTILE, above; or flv video 634 kb ) .  As you can see, I missed the very beginning of his bellow.  I like this clip because one can hear how impressed the park visitors were. A couple of them were sure it sounded like a Harley starting.  He got up on shore near what I assumed was a female (she was in the water when I'd first gotten there, but got out fairly soon.)(See TOGETHER above). He stayed there for about 15 or 20 minutes before reentering the water.   Finally, he moved a little further down, moved into the trees, and crossed the trail on his way to Elm Lake.  The picture above (FLOSS) shows him as he's just left the Elm Lake side of the trail (see the clip-- flv video 451 kb ).  From time to time until this crossing, I'd seen something stuck in the front of his mouth. It appeared to be a snake at one time...but I can't be sure. It seemed to have scales, and to be elongated; but it could have been a fish.  As he crossed the trail, I could see this hanging from the very front of his jaw (see GOT FLOSS? above).  When he got into Elm Lake, he moved slowly across to the islands. However, a smaller alligator (which I think is female--see YOU AVAILABLE?, above; or, watch the clip flv video 1470 kb  ) swam from nearby straight towards him.  She gently nuzzled him, but he didn't seem to respond. Or, perhaps, she just swam over and said "Hey...you've got something nasty caught between your teeth.", and he was too cool to acknowledge his embarrassment.  In any case, he was not responsive, and she swam off.  It appeared to me that she was half his size.
One further note:  The female I talked about last week attacked a 5-foot alligator that afternoon. She'd been very defensive all weekend. Today, she was not visible near her young at all, although there were still there.

May 04, 2003 Today,  there were alligators moving all over the park!  Today's RICKUBISCAM shows a large male (about 10 feet long) at the edge of Elm Lake.  This one was between two other ones (one about 6 feet long, the other about 9 feet long) that were completely out of the water. I only saw this one do one long gape...not the open-mouth heat regulating posture, but more like a long yawn. The image below (YAWN PART 2) shows his mouth gaping even wider!
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   YAWN PART 2                         NO MEANS NO!              MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK!      LET'S DANCE, TOUGH GUY!
ADDED 5/06--  Earlier on May 4, I was down near pier 2 or 3 on Elm Lake. As I was walking, I heard an unmistakable sound. It was a sort of deep, gurgling croak. I've heard this sound at other times. At these times, an alligator, which I assumed to be female (in some cases, this alligator would be much smaller than the alligator it was speaking to) would make this noise when approached by a male (I assumed) that was attempting to mate with it.  Most times, the approaching alligator would stop almost immediately, and stop any pursuit or further closing movement.  Today, however, the amorous male didn't take no for an answer. The female continued her "croaking" as the male pursued. (see NO MEANS NO, above, or flv video clip1(1811 kb) and flv video clip2(1655 kb)).  I watched though my video camera as she turned and finally went into the grass.  That wasn't the end, though. If you watch the third video clip( flv video clip3(1718 kb) ; near the middle of the clip, note what happens in the right foreground.  A larger male makes an appearance (which I didn't see at first since I was looking through my video camera--I wish I knew where he came from), and sneaks up on the first pursuing male (see MY BOYFRIEND'S BACK, above).   Notice the sudden turbulence as the first pursuer realizes that HE is being pursued. What followed then was an interesting chase that went towards the higher numbered piers for about 5 minutes (see LET'S DANCE, above, or flv video clip4(2188 kb)). They were moving fast enough to require me to walk rapidly to get ahead of them.  Finally, the bigger male just slowed down and moved towards one of the islands, as the smaller one continued swimming a little further, though not as quickly.  The chase went past two of the piers.  I was once again impressed by how non-violent  most alligator interaction is.  Yes, there was implied threat, but everything proceeded at a certain pace, and no alligators were actually attacked.  This event has given me something to think about though. Did the female's calls alert the larger male? Is this the purpose of the call? That is, is this sound not directed that the pursuing male--to warn it off; but instead a call to the dominant male in the area? On further thought, it this seems unlikely. The female's calls might have just happened to alert the larger male. I could also be wrong in assuming that the chasing male is the dominant male in that part of the lake (that is, it might not be his territory, either). Interesting, isn't it?

May 18, 2003  This morning, not long after I'd started walking near Elm Lake, I heard an alligator head slap near pier 2.  As I started hurrying towards the sound, I began hearing bellowing. When I got close to the source of the bellowing, (it sounded like 2 females and one male) I noticed a large male alligator swimming parallel to my course, That is, he was headed towards the bellowing. I could just make out the male that had been bellowing, when the larger one got close to it. The bellowing male was at least half a length shorter than this male that followed me. The smaller alligator beat a hasty retreat to the center of the channel...but only about 25 feet or so away. The larger alligator showed a puffed-body/tail-arch posture for a while, then got closer to the far shore and began bellowing (see MY YARD, below or video clip (1,452 kb)). When the large male bellowed, I'm sure I felt a subtle vibration; similar to what one feels sitting next to a large, low frequency speaker. As I looked at my video, it seemed to me that there is a slight vibration of the camera near the "waterdance" stage of the bellow cycle.
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                       MY YARD!                     I SAID,  MY YARD!                    THERE THEY GO
The large male continued bellowing, and what sounded like two females (on either side of the large male) began bellowing as well. This went on for about 3 bouts. After the bellowing stopped, two smaller alligators (about 6 or 7 feet long) appeared from the East, swimming alongside each other.  The large male turned, and swam out to meet them. The smaller one of the two stopped swimming immediately. However, the other one didn't, although it *did* try to swim around the big male. It was able to move around the large one, but the male continued advancing, and then turned to follow the small alligator (see I SAID, above or video clip (1,424kb)). And then the chase was on! (see THERE THEY GO, above or video clip (678 kb)) This chase, however, continued down Elm Lake for quite a distance; maybe 3 or 4 piers. Far enough to require binoculars to see them in the distance. That was a nice start to the day.
A little after this, a couple of park visitors told me about an alligator that was up near the trail.  I went to with them, and helped them pass. And then I saw an alligator acting very oddly. When I first arrived, it was facing the water, and repeatedly opening and closing its jaws. (see SMILE FOR RICKUBIS, and THE SMILE, below; also video clip (366kb))
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 SMILE FOR RICKUBIS      THE SMILE             ITS BETTER SIDE?    HOPE NO BIKES COME  STOMACH SCRATCH?
As I walked around, taking pictures (my C-700 is back!) this alligator shifted position. Now, alligators sunning themselves will do this periodically, to alter their heat absorption surface in relation to the sun, to move into shade, and so on. From what I've seen, this shift in position only happens after long periods, and most basking is done with almost no movement (many park visitors have commented that they thought this or that alligator was "dead", since they move so infrequently while basking.). So, there are long times of stillness punctuated at irregular times by a shift in position.  This alligator, however, moved many times.
Anyway, this alligator moved and turned parallel to the trail (see ITS BETTER SIDE, above; or video clip (532kb)) Note how it just slides itself around. All through this, it would open and close its jaws.  After just a few minutes, it shifted again and slid UP ONTO THE TRAIL! (see HOPE NO BIKES, above). This all happened within a few minutes. I didn't make it back to my tripod-mounted video camera, partly because the alligator was between the camcorder and myself. I didn't want to get between the alligator and the water, and I began getting a feeling that something was wrong with the alligator.  So, I gave it room.  As I moved to get behind the alligator, and move towards my tripod, it slid the rest of the way across the trail (see STOMACH SCRATCH, above; or video clip (502kb)). The best I could do was shoot a quick video clip with the C-700.  I made it to the camcorder just as it pushed itself the rest of the way into Pilant Lake. As can be seen in the last clip, he never got up and walked. I hope this very odd behavior didn't indicate anything seriously wrong with it.
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If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:

Brazos Bend State Park   The main page.

Brazos Bend State Park Volunteer's Page  The volunteer's main page.
 

Here are a few links to more information on alligators. There's a LOT of it out there. The reason is, of course, that ALLIGATORS KICK ASS!

   Crocodilian.com

    Adam Britton's Pages 1

    Adam Britton's Pages 2

    Fish and Wildlife Page (Text)

    Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species

My other alligator pages:                                       OR,  FOR OTHER ANIMALS:
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page1   Critters at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page2   Spiders at Brazos Bend State Park Page 1
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 3
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 4
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 5
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 6
Alligators at Brazos Bend State Park Page 7

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           Go back to the RICKUBISCAM page.
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