Readers’ wildlife photos and video

We have a photo and a video today. First, Tara Tanaka (flickr site here, vimeo site here) sent a video of a giant American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) who lives on her property. It’s positively primeval—and scary! Her notes on “Mr. Biggun” (be sure to watch the video on the site and in full screen; click on “vimeo” at lower right):

In January I posted a video of what I thought was our largest alligator. We later found her nest and babies, and I renamed her ‘Mrs. Biggun.’

A couple of months ago I looked out the window, and for the first time saw two gators at the same time, so I grabbed my digiscoping gear and headed out in the yard to video them. I chose the closest one to focus on, and as I videoed him he really didn’t look that big — UNTIL he pulled himself up on ‘gator island.’ When I saw his jaw mine dropped. Lesson learned: you can’t judge a book by its cover.

When I originally videoed Mrs. Biggun it was just before we hired someone with a mechanical harvester to remove the floating islands that were choking out the swamp and open water. Since our gator had a favorite spot to sun, we marked with flags and had David leave that little section, and we named it ‘gator island.’ You can see the original vegetation in the video of Mrs. Biggun, and what’s left in this one.

Reader Barbara Wilson (location not mentioned) sent some photos of an insect and plant, along with some notes:

This is the very opposite of a “spot the ___” photo.  The White-lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata) caterpillars were by far the thickest organisms out in this scabby area, except the flowering Bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva).  The caterpillar is protected by camouflage, tiny hairs, and a single yellow eyespot on its butt.

Here it is:

Dr. Andy Moldenke, who identified these photos, says these moths are migratory and that this year they are moving by the millions.

Here is another view of the rocky habitat, showing the Bitterroot, which appears to flower right out of the rock.

Lewisia rediviva has leaves earlier in the season, but if the weather is dry they wither before the flowers arrive.

16 Comments

  1. Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    The Hyles lineata caterpillars were in southern Jefferson County, Oregon. Sorry about the omission.

  2. Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Good! For some reason I think that Mr. Biggun has to be big or the Mrs. would not let him hang out in her area. I suppose it has to be admitted that they will eat some of the beautiful birds that you film so well.

    • Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Yes, she picked the “John Wayne” of alligators to father her young.

      I did video “the Mrs.” charging an Anhinga, but the bird got airborne just in time to not be dinner. Without alligators, the rookery couldn’t exist, as rat snakes and raccoons would raid all of the nests. Given the propensity for Great Egret chicks to push each other out of the nest, it could explain why he is so fat.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:54 am | Permalink

        With neighbors like this, probably do not sleep out much?

        • Posted June 12, 2017 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

          Not much :-). Not long after we moved here my husband had a great “date night” idea: Let’s paddle our kayaks out in the swamp after it gets dark and “shine up” gators! It really didn’t sound that bad until I was out in the middle of the swamp, in the dark, and a pair of red eyes shined back at me in the not too far distance. We’re still married, but I don’t paddle out in the swamp in the dark anymore.

          • jeffery
            Posted June 13, 2017 at 12:18 am | Permalink

            Saw an article a while back about a “miracle-working” megachurch preacher in Africa who had his “flock” follow him to the edge of a nearby river so he could show them how, with Jesus’s help, he could walk on water. A couple of crocodiles had other ideas, however, and tore him to pieces in front of their eyes! “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (or His crocs, either).

            • Posted June 13, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

              That’s got to be one of the worst ideas ever!!!!!

  3. Posted June 12, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Very nice, thanks for sharing these.

  4. rickflick
    Posted June 12, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Delightful. The gator looks impressive.
    Somehow, those bitterroot look impossible.

    • Posted June 12, 2017 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      I agree. The bitterroot look like the rock itself is blooming.

  5. Kevin
    Posted June 12, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Big gator. Creepy animals, but lovely to see from a distance.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted June 12, 2017 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

    Cool gator! Are you worried that they’ll keep producing hatch-lings and you’ll be overrun?

    It’s neat how the caterpillar’s purple feet match the grass it’s feeding on.

    • Posted June 12, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark! We also have a lot of Great Blue Herons nesting here, and I think they eat young gators, as well as raccoons and other alligators, so I think they are “self-managing” (there’s probably a scientific term for that).

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 13, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Yeah, that makes sense.


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