I have yet to see one leave the sloped ground along the edge of the lagoon where they lie motionless in the sun. However, they ARE capable of moving quickly when they want to, so one always has to be cautious near "alligator-infested" waters. Particularly with small kids and pets.
Fortunately people are learning that wild alligators must not be fed by humans, EVER! Because once they associate humans with food, they will become more aggressive and will have to be destroyed. In our subdivision, there is a strong live-with-nature ethic, and we like our wildlife, including the alligators.
It's sea turtle nesting season on Sanibel. The female loggerhead turtles (and the occasional Ridley's and leatherback) come up out of the sea every other year to dig a nest and deposit their eggs. It is the only time they ever leave the sea, and the males never do. Four or five times during the mating season, a female will lumber up the beach to the high tide mark, laboriously dig out a nest with her flippers, deposit 50 - 150 eggs and cover it over, never to see it again. Exhausted, she drags her 30- 45 inch long carapace back to the waters edge and slips into the sea. Sixty days later, the little ones dig themselves out - at night - and navigate to the sea by the light on the horizon. Which is why beach front homes must not leave outside lights on during turtle nesting season: the babies will head the wrong way and get dessicated when the sun rises. Or eaten!
We watched a nesting loggerhead turtle a couple nights ago. What a privilege to see such a thing, and this is the second time we've been lucky enough to witness it.
One of the great fascinations of Sanibel is how radically different the two sides of it are, from heavily canopied and fringed with foliage to the the bright expanse of the Gulf. Do you have more photos, perchance?
As per your request, bixa, I brought my camera on our recent canoe trip through the mangroves lining the Ding Darling NWR.
The mangroves have air roots that drop down and get established,
allowing the trees to take root and anchor the sand. Over time, the trees seem to "walk", thus creating land where there was once water. It is crucial to preserve the mangroves for hurricane protection, as these low barrier islands could be washed away, condos and all, during a major hurricane.
So last time we were on Sanibel, in November, the eagle nest (see reply #26-28 previous page) fell out of the tree in a rainstorm. The weight of the rainwater apparently was too much for the dead tree, and pulled the whole branch down. The eagles rebuilt (2 nests in different locations, which is typical behavior, I hear), and were frequently seen sitting on the new nest, when another storm brought that one down too. I hear there are plans to plant a nesting platform near the eagle's favorite tree so they don't have to go through this again. But meanwhile, they relocated to the other nest which is not so easily seen.
Of special interest: age of island: 5000 years average temperature: 74 degrees F average elevation: 4 feet above sea level (maximum 13 feet) miles of road: ~80 miles of bicycle trails: ~23 Number of single family homes <4000 total land area: 11,600 acres conservation lands: 7200 acres (62% of total) miles of shoreline: 24.5 number of vehicles across the causeway per year ~3 million length of causeway: 3 miles causeway toll : $6
Lots of demand for rentals during the high season, so no trouble renting it February and March. Some years December and January get rented too. April is almost always available, and we are there in November and May. During hurricane/air conditioning season it is closed up and unavailable. (You could not find anyone willing to pay enough to be in Florida during the ungodly hot and humid summer to make up for the AC bill and the wear and tear on the place!)
I'm considering a visit to the Florida Gulf coast before too long, although I would probably go north of Tampa Bay rather than south of it. As "ordinary" as it is, it felt like home to me after so many visits to my parents there, and I still miss it.
It's really special that you got to see nesting loggerheads several times. Have you ever seen the eggs hatching, too? That would be a sight to see, but also sad since so few of them live. It is a shame how fragile their survival is.
Very nice photos, Kimby. Those shells are real beauties.