weather was not bad for a winter's day. Today, although it started cool,
warmed up during the afternoon. The female alligator that I saw December
28th was still in her spot (this is the third weekend in a row). The babies
were also up on shore, and although I took some pictures, they aren't much
better than the ones I took on Dec. 28 (see below). I suspect that she
has a den right near that area so that during the cold evenings she and
her young are protected from the severe temperature changes. Then they
just pop out and go right onto the shore to warm up. I think that would
explain why they've been at exactly the same spot 3 weekends in a row.
December 28, 2003Today's weather was a lot nicer than promised. It didn't rain, and the temperature was above 60. It was also sunny for most of the day. About 100 yards from the parking lot by the Elm Lake Pavilion (about halfway to the first bench before pier #1) there was a large alligator on one of the islands. Since I'd seen a group of babies, and even a nest in that general area; from habit I normally examine the area near any large alligators I see near, or on, shore. Today, I was rewarded by finding a pile of baby alligators just behind the large on on the bank. They were difficult to count, but I know there were at least seven of them (not SE7EN--what an idiotic concept). I was able to see them without binoculars, but not clearly. This is the RICKUBISCAM picture. In case you can't pick out the alligators, here's a closer look at the mother (see HERE'S MOM, below). And here is a closer shot of the babies (see HERE'S THE KIDS, below). Because of their size, I believe that these babies are at least one year old--that is, born the August before the one just passed.
HERES MOM HERE'S THE KIDS
This was a pretty long shot with my camera, even with the 10X zoom, and also, the plants in front of them made photographing difficult.
the weather this weekend great, or WHAT? After a lot of driving Saturday
(to San Antonio and back), I got out to see the alligators (well, I hoped
so) Sunday. I got there about 8:30 am, and after getting a radio, and talking
to some people at the VC/NC, I headed out to Elm Lake. This was about 9:00.
I hadn't been out of the car 5 minutes, when I heard an alligator bellowing
off somewhere near the Elm Lake pavilion. I hurried around the Elm Lake
trail, hoping to be in time to actually see some alligators bellowing since,
if one alligator begins bellowing, others usually answer.
I think I was near pier number 3 when I began hearing other alligators, just a couple, off in the distance. As I walked down the trail towards pier 7, I heard one, and then another begin bellowing. Some were in Pilant Slough, some were in Elm Lake, and some were in Pilant Lake. This bellowing went on until around 10:00 am. I never got to see any of the bellowers, but hearing them certainly made my day (as it always does)!
Since the greatest volume of bellowing happens in the springtime, during mating season, quite a few people were wondering why the alligators are bellowing now. I've heard that Sharon Hanzik, one of the Park Naturalists, feels that they may be dividing up their territories to prepare for the coming cool weather. Sharon knows her stuff, and has a lot of experience at the park (years and years!). Sounds like a good reason to me.
I had to head back into the VC/NC to prepare for a program I was presenting, but on the way back, I stopped by to check on a visitor report of sighting some baby alligators. Since this was near the area where one of the nests had been (see the August 17, and August 7 entries); I hoped that these were the same babies. No one had seen them for a while. I wasn't prepared when I surprised them (I'd thought they were further along the trail), and so I alarmed them. They were between me and the sun, which is why the photo (THERE'S THE BABY, below) is so harshly exposed. Unfortunately, they were already giving alarm chirps (though not frantically), so I figured that the mother was already alerted. So, I couldn't move around them so the solar glare wasn't in my eyes, since there was water on both sides of the trail. So, the mother could have been hidden on either side of the trail. I took a step, and stopped. Another step, and stopped. But, the babies still chirped, and I waited for some kind of movement, so I could be sure where the mother was. See, she could have been near the trail I'd already passed over. Until she made an appearance, I couldn't know which way to go. Until she made an appearance, I couldn't submit gracefully without stressing the female alligator. I don't like to stress the alligators.
Finally, she showed up (see HERE COMES MOM, below), and moved straight towards me, with her back high. Time to leave! So, I did.
THERE'S THE BABY HERE COMES MOM-
was just a beautiful day. The weather was milder than it had been in a
while. I was walking the trails when I spotted the alligator in the
picture below (Baskin' Baby) lying up near the Spillway Trail. As
I stood there, talking to park visitors, this small alligator turned and
started down towards the water. In the meantime, another small alligator
(there were 4 more in the water and all of these were about 1.5-2.0 feet
long) began swimming towards the shore. Near the time the gator on land
had turned and started walking towards the water, the other one began walking
up--right towards the same spot, right in front of us. There was a small
opening pressed in the grass between the water and the trail, and both
of these small alligators passed each other. As they did, the one that
had been on land made a few vocalisations, which were answered a few times
from the others in the water. The second one is in the picture below (See
MY TURN, below)From what I can hear, the alarm chirping of the juvenile
alligators sounds like "eeyurp! eeyurp!" with a higher pitch at the "eey".
The "all is well", or recognition chirp sounds, to me, like "urp! urp!"
with a sort of straight sound across the chirp. What I heard were
these recognition chirps. It's also possible that these alligators
were from a pod sighted in the area last year, and might just be a year
old. In the wild, though, they grow better.
Then, around 11:30, Sharon called me on the radio to report alligators bellowing near the lower-numbered piers at Elm Lake. This was a surprise, and I was a little disappointed. Until, about 15 minutes later, alligators started bellowing near me on the Spillway Trail. Park visitors mentioned that it seemed that the alligators were bellowing all around Elm and Pilant Lakes. This was GREAT! Although I couldn't see them bellow, it was still great to hear.
BASKIN' BABY IT'S MY TURN
I'll also mention that we only lost one of our captive-hatched alligators from a week and a half ago. ALL the rest are fine, strong, and eating well! IS THAT COOL, OR WHAT?
the "second" alligator nest was inspected today, it was discovered that
the eggs had hatched! Since the eggs we had in the VC/NC came from
that nest (we had 12), it was decided to hatch them this afternoon.
I was informed of this plan, and was able to leave work early to help.
it was time to start, I watched one of our very knowledgeable park naturalists,
Sharon Hanzik, open an egg. The images below show how an expert does it.
CAREFULLY CUT SHELL PEEL THE SHELL REMOVE THE SHELL
REMOVE MEMBRANES 2003 MODEL 'GATOR!
I'd never done it before, so I was a little nervous; probably because,
the thought of holding one of these newborn "dragons" in my palm
while it took its first view of the world was kind of important to me.
The three pictures below (HATCHING part 1, 2, 3) are frames from video that was taken for me with my video camera by one of the rangers. (Thanks, Dusty!). Click on the captions below the pictures to see the flv video clips. I wanted to get more photos, but after my first egg, my hands were a bit...gooey.
In the wild, no one can say how long one of these babies would survive. Although they are protected by the female alligator, only one in sixty will survive the first three years (there were 35 in this nest). The babies that we have in the VC/NC usually have their survival assured, at least for the first year. Generally they are released after about a year and a half--put back into a pod of babies with a mother in the wild. The female will accept them and protect them, as long as they are small enough and make the sounds which allow the adult female to recognize them as young alligators (though not necessarily her offspring). It is surprising, but babies kept captive for a year or so will still recognize an adult female alligator, and will begin feeding and acting just like the "wild" babies immediately. They seem retain have memory at all of human contact at this age.
HATCHING PART 1(859 kb) HATCHING PART 2(1908 kb ) HATCHING PART 3(1809 kb) AND *I* HELPED!(199 kb)
able to assist the hatching of 2 eggs. The picture below (BRAND SPANKIN'
NEW) is the baby that came out of the second one. The video clips are from
the first egg. After I'd done the first egg, someone (I must admit that
my mind wasn't really on the people around me. I was watching the babies.)
said something about me looking at the camera as a proud papa. The picture
above (I HELPED) was my response to this. Yes, there is a link to that
clip also, since it's good to laugh now and then, even at me.
As time permits, I'll track down some more facts about crocodilian eggs and they will show up here.
FURTHER NOTE, SUNDAY AUG. 31: Out of the first 12 eggs that were borrowed from the nest, 11 had live young, and one was not fertile. Out of the 11 hatched, about 4 seemed a bit "premature". They had large yolk sacs and were a bit weaker than the rest. Today, 4 days later, one of the "preemies" had not survived, though all the others seem to be ok. Two of those were still in a separate tank although showing signs of being stronger, and one has been put in the tank with the other, bigger ones. All of them are vigorous and alert (see FOUR DAYS OLD, below). Four days ago, when the nest was found to have hatched, 3 eggs had been abandoned there, and three hatched babies were near the nest, covered in fire ants. But they were saved, and are part of our group.
They haven't been fed yet (normally they don't eat for about a week), but I was able to observe the wild siblings through a spotting scope this morning (they're hard to pick out), and I saw them feeding. So, hopefully our adopted babies will be eating soon.
BRAND SPANKIN' NEW FOUR DAYS OLD
If you'd like to know more about the park follow these links:
Brazos Bend State Park The main page.
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.
Adam Britton's Pages 1
Adam Britton's Pages 2
Fish and Wildlife Page (Text)
Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species
Here are my "alligator behavior" pages:
|SOCIAL INTERACTION||CONFLICT AND CANNIBALISM||FEEDING||BABY ALLIGATORS||ALLIGATOR DENS||ALLIGATORS ON LAND||FOSSIL CROCS|
|SIGNALS 1||CONFLICT 1||FEEDING 1||BABIES 1||DENS 1||ON LAND 1||FOSSILS 1|
|SIGNALS 2||CONFLICT 2||FEEDING 2||BABIES 2||ON LAND 2|
|SIGNALS 3||CONFLICT 3||FEEDING 3||BABIES 3||ON LAND 3|
|SIGNALS 4||FEEDING 4||BABIES 4||ON LAND 4|
|SIGNALS 5||FEEDING 5||BABIES 5||ON LAND 5|
|SIGNALS 6||FEEDING 6||BABIES 6||ON LAND 6|
|SIGNALS 7||ON LAND 7|
And, this page shows alligators at the park, on land, near various landmarks at the park.
Go back to my main alligator page, Alligators
Go back to my home page, Welcome
Go back to the RICKUBISCAM page.
Go back to the See the World page.