I stopped, the cooling breeze and the shade taking the edge off the heat. High above was an osprey, perched on the tallest tree around. I wondered if he’d do anything. Perhaps he hadn’t planned to but all that went out the window when a couple of raucous crows started dive bombing him…..or her, and, after about eight attempts, the crows won out.
I’d just finished shooting (must be careful, that can have more deadly connotations in America) a couple of squirrels grooming themselves and was looking forward to returning to the car. I’d returned to Circle Bar B Reserve because my morning had been taken up with an R.C.I. presentation that started late and went longer. Too late to travel to the space centre that was two hours away. I’d hoped for a calming effect after my photos from Homosassa disappeared without trace off the computer. It had been devastating and I couldn’t get it out of my head but, just being here was helping.
There was water either side of me. The primaeval swamp was on the left and Lake Hancock, the headwaters of the Peace River, was on my right.
I’d started out at the first carpark, wanting to take a different trail to the first day but not knowing exactly what to do. As I’d been getting my gear out of the car, a gent who was obviously a nature lover, due to his attire, struck up a conversation. I hoped he might give me some information but, it was his first time here and he assumed I was after bird photos, as did I of him but, no, he was an insect photographer; the smaller the better. He elaborated on how one of his photos had won a significant competition recently and told me to be careful of the fire ants as he’d been bitten by a couple while pursuing a target and was still scratching. I made a mental note – beware the fire ant!
He added that, considering where I came from, I had heaps more things that bite people. I queried as to whether he’d studied entomology but apparently he hadn’t. Either that or he didn’t understand my Aussie accent.
We parted and I set out on the trail that would ultimately take me to where I’d been on Monday. Apart from one couple I saw no-one for the first half hour through scattered forest and was rewarded with my first sighting of a red bellied woodpecker; an attractive bird with delightful black and white patterned wings and a red cap for its head. I also couldn’t get over how many dragonflies the place had. During the course of the afternoon I would see over a thousand which went some way to explaining why this place had no mosquitoes, despite all the stagnant water.
I broke out between two swamps where I’d been before. Here the shade disappeared and the heat affected me so I took off my shirt, something I should have done the other day like more sensible people.
Though they’re not in abundance, the variety of birdlife is so diverse, but even they were feeling the heat. I smiled as a Great Blue Heron made its way out of the water right near me, turned its back to me and let out a significant squirt of white excretive matter. I wondered if that was some sort of comment.
I reached the intersection where Alligator Way came in, offering an alternative route back to the car but I’d been told the other day it was closed due to hurricane damage. Still, thought I’d go as far as I could and have a look anyway. In the end it transpired that repairs had been effected and you could walk the whole way, but I didn’t find that out till later.
Walking along this way is inspirational. You’re in a zoo but, there are no barriers, nothing to stop you patting an alligator if you’re so inclined. Fish keep breaching the surface of the pondages, keeping one alert but there’s so much wildlife; you just have to remember to stop regularly because otherwise you miss so much.
I come across what, in my ignorance, I thought was a lizard but no! It’s a looks-like-a-lizard green anole, something I’ve never heard of. On a parallel bank on my right a raccoon makes its way through the vegetation while warblers squawk in the branches beside the trail. The therapeutic effect I’d sought is working but, wait, what’s that ahead – an alligator speed hump.
As I approach he eyes me off with one lazy eye and has the appearance that he’s not going anywhere. Three people are arriving from the opposite direction and they’re not chancing anything either. You just don’t know with reptiles; not a lot of emotion showing there. He’s not a huge specimen, but you know he could do you some damage if things went awry. That’s why this place is so amazing. There are no fences, no barriers, no restrictions. It’s just you, nature and the wildlife plus, entry is free. I’m loving it.
I’d found out that the way has been repaired and I want to go ahead because it’s a long way back but I’m stymied and Mr. Sun Baker’s not moving his rough leather skin anywhere. The impasse continues and I finally give up and retrace my steps. I’ve only gone about 30 metres when a pair of cyclists cruise by and I jovially quip that they might want to consider a reverse gear.
However, it transpires that Mr. Gator is frightened of something after all. Pushbikes with flashing headlights are something he doesn’t want to tangle with and he re-enters the water in haste, much to everyone’s relief.
Now, the people who’d been on the opposite side have something else to worry about The raccoon is minding its own business scratching along the bank beside the trail and one of the three people is dead set frightened of him. He’s a young black dude and there’s a look of terror in his eyes and he’s raised his voice exponentially.
“I’m more frightened of him than the ‘gator man. They supposed to be nocturnal ain’t they? This one must have rabies!” He’s serious and I ask him if his last will and testament are in order and can’t help but crack a broad grin. I tell him “You should get out more, you’ve been watching a computer for too long.” The raccoon works its way past him and sanity is returned.
It’s yet another of the numerous wildlife experiences you can have here, and now, with Lake Hancock approaching and an Everglades-style swamp on my right, I’m revelling in it. It’s further than I think back to the car and when I reach the first carpark I scrounge a lift with some gentleman who takes me the 1 ½ kms back to the Nissan and I’m so grateful.
Hours later, when I download the photos, I’m in ecstasy because suddenly, out of nowhere, my lost pics from Homosassa pop up. They’d been caught up in a Microsoft update and now the world had resumed its normal shape again. Peace was at hand.