You Lose Some, You Win Some
It was another sucky day full of unfulfilled promise. A quick spin around the Everglades Anhinga Trail didn't result in any shots of alligators ripping off tourists' hands. Dammit. But as you know from reading the 5 Keys post, if you want to succeed at this nature photography thing you must persevere.
So on the way back to the parking lot, this Red-shouldered Hawk is hanging out in a Palm tree above the gift shop.
There's a photo here somewhere, if only I can reposition my camera without falling in the gator pond.
While I'm trying to get another angle the bird launches out of the tree and barrels right towards me, passing between me and the gift shop (a gap of maybe five yards). He's eyeballing something just behind my right shoulder.
Boom. He smashes into this bush just as an alert black bird jumps away to safety. A split second quicker and the hawk would have had it's meal and I might have nailed a nice shot.
Instead the hawk flies off hungry and I didn't even get a lousy Everglades T-shirt for my trouble, just some so-so shots. I do however have an amazing memory of watching the struggle for survival from very close range.
Not to be deterred, we leave the Everglades the next day and take the scenic Loop Road through Big Cypress Preserve, passing the cheery hamlet of Pinecrest.
These Black Vultures have found an attractive perch.
I get to work shooting gators. The Loop Road is dirt and just wide enough for two cars to squeeze past each other. It's lined with dense cypress swamp but there are numerous culvert crossings where the jungle parts revealing the shallow waterways. If you're lucky there will be something cool to shoot.
When you are 10-15 feet long and weigh up to 1000 pounds, you rule the swamp. Adult alligators are big enough they have no predators save man.
I'm shooting a nice fat gator not far from the road when I hear a sizable bird fly out from the swamp to my left. No time to think - just shoot. It takes less than four seconds for the immature Black-crowned Night Heron to cross the road and disappear into the woods. I manage to capture six frames in two seconds, then it's gone. Through the viewfinder I could tell it was carrying prey. I'm guessing a frog as Night Herons are fond of those.
Imagine my surprise when I downloaded my photos that evening and discovered the prey was not a frog, but a baby alligator. Less than 24 hours after missing the close-up hawk action I witness and capture this moment - a moment I'll most likely never see again.
A black bird escapes to live another day or maybe just another hour. A hawk flies back to its perch to resume the hunt. I rue a missed opportunity. An alligator dies in the first months of its life. A Night Heron eats. I get the shot. That's Nature. That's nature photography.
As always, all content ©John Verm Sherman
Awesome shot with baby gator in beak!
Yeeehaw! Why they don't make that into a Marlboro commercial I will never understand...
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