Walking Tall

I found myself with a very rare opportunity yesterday afternoon.  I was off early and had a couple of hours before I needed to pick up the kids.  My bedridden wife was comfortable and napping.  So I went to my favorite place. About ten minutes from my house is a place called Black Bayou Refuge.  My son calls it Black ByMeA couple of years ago, my good friend Chandler and I found a very little travelled corner of the property that is very easily accessible and has always proven to me to be a place of exciting sights and sounds and a momentary refuge from my concrete routine.  This is where the wild things are and the sidewalk ends.

Here in this corner used to be a gridwork of small ponds, perhaps catfish ponds but they are very shallow and Chandler and I refer to them as the crawfish ponds.  It is an ideal area for walking about.  You drive right up to them on a gravel road, there is now a boardwalk to through the briars, and the gridwork is small narrow levees that bound each little pond. 

For the area to be so small, a couple of acres, I have seen a broader variety of wildlife here and had more fantastic encounters than any other space that I have visited in all my days in the woods.  I have stepped over snakes to chase dragonflies, shake hands with a coon, wrestle a softshell, exchange pleasantries with a coyote and fetch the tail-feather from a hawk as it flew away.  Did I mention snakes too quickly?  I saw a water snake one day with a length to match the width of the levee.  A ribbon, a grass, racer and the congo.  I took Amity last year to see all the bunnies gathered around the visitor center. It took a little time, but soon I remembered how too see things in the woods. This year there is a pair of wod ducks, the occasional snowy egret and these strange little blue herons (not the great blue).

This particular trip, I was determined to take my time and see what I could see. I revisited the honey bee tree that Gus and I found on our last walkabout – a first for me too. The first of the days strange sitings was a very large swamp rabbit. I don’t know is swampy is a technical name, but I have seen them before and they tend to be larger rabbits that don’t mind getting their feet wet. Just a few more feet down I came upon the love knot. This is a phenomena known as a mating ball. There were four watersnakes that fleed quickly in shame.

I was making may way to the corner. There is this one particular pond that is the smallest of all the ponds – about 100-feet square.  A couple of years ago, the first summer that I visited the ponds, I encountered as many as eight alligators in this one small pond – an sighted a very large gator in the largest of the ponds on the backside of the grid.  As I came upon the corner, on my last vist accompanied by Gus, I heard and saw a freat splash.  So loud was this splash that I knew it had to be an alligator; I have on this most recent trip confirmed that there are beavers in this area but a beaver sighting in the daytime is very rare.  Needless to say, I retreated my son to the vehicle with all haste.  But this day I was alone and could investigate with all my stealth and patience.  I saw it.  The largest alligator I have ever encountered in the wild.  Usually, if you’re so blesses as to spot a gator and know what you’re looking at, you only see the head.  I had a look at the full body shot of a eight footer sunning itself.  I determined that they don’t seem to hear very well, but as soon as it saw me it splashed and submerged itself.  I made up my mind to go around the back way, through the larger ponds lined with tall marsh grasses, and come up on the other side and wait for another chance.  This trek took about ten minutes.  I sat down, enjoying the blustery day, and waiter about another five minutes.  As an aside, I’ll tell you that when I was younger and had better eyesight that I could stare at a particular spot and if anything moved in my line of sight or peripherals, I could see it.  I am not so fine tuned in my old age, but I did catch sight of movement that I just new was a living thin.  I stared and studied that spot until I realized it was the back leg of the same gator.  It was sunning itself again and I could now distinguish most of its body.  I watched a while until it was close to time to go.  I decided to walk along the levee closest to it, a very densely brushed one that is rarely bushhogged.  All I could catch a glimpse of was a ripple in the water going towards the center of the pond.  But I could clearly see the architecture of the tip of a tail.  I watched for a minute before looking down, and to my surprise I realised that the tail was running the opposite direction from what I thought and a couple of feet from was the face of another alligator, about five feet in length.  She lurched forward and splashed as she made a quick retreatto the center of the pont.  My heart was pounding with excitement to have such a fantastic trip to the crawfish ponds.

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~ by Aaron W Eley on 12 April 2008.

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