Thursday, November 01, 2007

More than Just 'Bama Birds

On every birding walk or trip, I enjoy the non-feathered parts of nature too, and Mobile Bay abounds in wildlife. The alligators attracted our attention immediately. On our first trip to a boardwalk along the edge of the bay, we saw a floating log that turned out to be an alligator at least 10 feet long. Sometimes only it's nose and eyes appeared, while minutes later you could see the entire length of its rough, scaly back. It didn't appear to be hunting anything in particular that we noticed, but as it got closer and heard us talking, it decided the neighborhood was too crowded, then simply sank down and disappeared. In the town of Daphne, a creek flows into the bay in an area known as Alligator Alley, where the alligators could climb up into the hotel parking lot if they wished. This one was perhaps 6 feet long. A few days later, we found the baby, only about 12 inches long, at the Daphne park. A friend lost his daughter in an alligator attack, so we are very careful when they are around.
Insects were far more numerous. The Gulf Fritillary butterfly floated from one flower to another at every stop. Yes, I did have to search to find out how to spell that name! The dragonflies were truly enormous though. I kept saying, "There's a hummingbird" and it was a dragonfly every time. We never did see any hummingbirds. The dragonflies must have been preparing for something, since they never did land and just sit like they do in Kentucky, so I was unable to take any photos of them. We won't even talk about the mosquitos.
Baldwin County, Alabama, has more species of carnivorous Pitcher plants, the guides told us, than anywhere else. Pitcher plants grow in sunny, damp bogs, thriving in poor soil. Prescribed fires keep trees and shrubs from growing large enough to shade out these rare plants. Flies and other insects are attracted to the scent, land on the lip and slide in, but they can't fly out, and are slowly digested by the plant. I always thought only tropical rain forests would have carnivorous plants, not Alabama!
Mammals were a little harder to find, although we saw what we think were bobcat tracks once. At Fort Morgan, in between squalls, a long-legged Red Fox came out and just looked over the ocean. Birding teaches you to look quickly for all the wonderful creatures that abound in Nature. I am constantly amazed at the variety of animals we see in places where there are too many people to begin with. How wonderful that they can adapt! How sad that so many others cannot.

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