Baby Gators and More in Okefenokee

May 17, 2013 at 4:58 am (Birds - Georgia, Dragonflies and Bugs, Georgia, National Wildlife Refuges (US Fish & Wildlife), Nature, Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Photography, Wildlife) (, , , , , , )

Baby gator

Baby gator

The nice thing about working in Okefenokee’s back yard is that I can take a trip along Swamp Island Drive after work.  I had heard about the baby gators in a pond from one of the refuge volunteers, but I had not been able to see them.  Until yesterday.  I counted six babies – all under a foot long.  Although they look like this year’s hatch, I’ve been assured by gator experts that these are about nine months old, and they don’t grow much the first winter.

Mama Gator keeps watch over her babies

Mama Gator keeps watch over her babies

This young mother gator was very protective.  If I was near one of her babies hiding along shore, it would “quack” and she floated toward me in a silent warning.  Alligators and crocodiles are the only North American reptiles that actually protect their eggs and babies, and these will be guarded until next year when she is ready to breed again.

Without polarizer

Without polarizer

It helps to have polarized sunglasses or a polarizing filter on your camera to see through the water reflections.  The babies are well camouflaged with their orange stripes.

With polarizer

With polarizer

See how much that helped eliminate reflections?

To see a video of the babies, click here.

Baby-Alligators,-SID,-Okefenokee-NWR-GA-(8)-copy

There were two types of frogs visible in the pond as well.  Both are commonly hunted for their tasty froglegs.

Bullfrog

Bullfrog

Southern Leopard Frog

Southern Leopard Frog

Driving along Swamp Island Drive I found the beautiful grass pink orchids.  The shoulders had just been mowed, but these escaped the blade.

Grass Pink Orchid

Grass Pink Orchid

Dragonflies were flitting about as well.

Blue Dasher, male

Blue Dasher, male

There are hundreds of species of dragonflies and damselflies.  It can be a challenge to identify them, as the females are often differently colored, and immature males don’t match the descriptions either.  The male blue dasher is known for its green eyes, but immature males (those recently emerged from the underwater nymph stage) may have brown eyes.

Blue dasher, female

Blue dasher, female

Also the stance helps figure which type of dragonfly it is.  These blue dashers tend to like perching up high, and their wings will be held in a forward droop.

Blue dasher female, closeup of eyes

Blue dasher female, closeup of eyes

These metallic blue “sunglasses” are a characteristic of the female blue dasher.

Eastern Pondhawk, female

Eastern Pondhawk, female

The eastern pondhawk is one of the most common dragonflies.  Males are blue, and they tend to like perching on the ground and on low vegetation.

Southern Fence Lizard

Southern Fence Lizard

The southern fence lizard was on a burned stump, and may be a female as there was a male with a blue throat and belly on the stump as well, looking interested.

Wood Storks

Wood Storks

I was surprised to see a pair of wood storks along the drive.  I had just seen hundreds of them nesting at Harris Neck NWR near Savannah, GA the day before.  Dozens also nest in the town of St Marys on the site of an old paper mill.  These birds are endangered because of habitat loss.  They are amazingly graceful in flight.

Wood stork

Wood stork

They break off greenery from trees near the nesting site to add soft materials for the chicks.  They are not known to nest in the Okefenokee Swamp, however, but they often fly far from their nesting sites for food.

It was a nice way to dilly-dally after work.  Wonder what awaits next time?

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre

Feel free to reblog

www.CindyMcIntyre.com

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4 Comments

  1. bobdouat said,

    Beautiful pictures as always Cindy.

  2. Phil Lanoue said,

    Oh those babies are soooo cute! Terrific photos Cindy!

  3. Kathy said,

    Hey, Cindy! Bring me some of those orchids!! Take care, Gator Bait!

    • Cindy McIntyre said,

      Kathy, stick to the moth orchids – mine keep reblooming. Native orchids generally don’t transplant well, and the ones in the refuge are protected.

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