A Guilty Pleasure

On a wonderfully warm, recent day, I strayed from the main path and tour crowds visiting a South Carolina wildlife attraction. Later I would learn that I had gone beyond the property limits but, at the time, I was innocently hoping to spot something new, something I had not yet seen. After a long walk, I rounded a corner and could not believe my eyes nor my ears. Virtually covering a long spit of vegetation jutting into a small lake was a community of gently noisy herons, mostly whites but a few blues.

Here’s a portion of what I chanced upon:

Someone in this feathery crowd kept making the amusing, gurgling chortle that I once heard while observing a rookery of herons on the west coast of Florida.

As I’ve admitted, I’m relatively new to seeking out birds for photos so perhaps this kind of colony is commonplace. But, for me, it was a photographic jackpot.

Although mesmerized by the constant comings and going of the herons, I did notice what appeared to be a large log floating just off their shoreline. You can see the object in the lower, center of the shot below.

Raising a camera with a telephoto lens to my eye, I realized the “log” actually was one of two huge alligators patrolling the waters., probably in hopes of snacking on the several ducks who warily paddled nearby.

I know golfers in the southern states are use to seeing alligators on the courses they play but this was a new experience for me.

A dramatic splash in the vicinity of the gators’ route suggested that an unfortunate duck had just become lunch but whatever occurred transpired behind an overhanging branch of leaves so the reason for the commotion is a mystery.

I spent several hours delighting in my access to this hideaway but after spotting the predators, I made certain to not wander too close to the water’s edge. Alligators can be fleet-footed when hungry.

After two hours or so, I headed back the way I’d come, although I could have spent the entire day there. In fact, later I decided to return. But, a young couple I encountered on the path told me they’d been admonished by a staff person who told them the rookery was beyond the attraction’s boundaries and was off limits.

I guess I was fortunate to have had, at least, a little time enjoying this hidden and forbidden pleasure.