Shuddersome Santee

We took another trip up to the Santee Wildlife Management Area [see A Gator-filled Santee Coastal for info] and found some surprises!

While on the board walk we heard lots of pileated woodpeckers. Didn’t seem much until we started back. We stopped this fellow:

And right next to him. on the hammock, was  this fellow:

We left the swamp after finding those two. After running through the trees trying to evade the biting flies and clouds of mosquitoes, we made it to the marshes. Five inches of rain had fallen, so there was lots of water and lots of fish jumping everywhere. They were attracting all sorts of predators, such as this tern [Caspian?]:

As we were watching the birds hunt when in the grasses in front of us we noticed something not so normal.

Now while it strikes an odd chord to see one type of animal eat the same type, it is bizarre to see such a sight while copulation is occurring as well. This dragonfly carnage [the male doesn’t have a head] I guess isn’t that uncommon. Consulting the guidebook for the Eastern Pondhawk, as this hungry female is, pondhawks are commonly seen eating other pondhawks. I can’t seem to find a good match for the poor pair meeting their fate, but they might be Slaty Skimmers.

The Pondhawk had a lot to deal with and kept jumping from one blade of grass to the other while juggling its meal, attracting the attention of another hungry insect:

He watched very interestedly. Perhaps he knew the Pondhawk wouldn’t be able to finish two helpings and was hoping to get some scraps…or, as someone suggested, he was praying for their souls!

While watching that buggy horror, we took a gaze behind us and found a whole flock of wading birds behind us. The great blue heron towered over the egrets and it looked as though he was standing with a fish in his beak. As we watched him and the dragonflies, he never swallowed his catch. I snapped a photo and zoomed in…sadly, he had rope of sorts wrapped around his bill.  I knew he wouldn’t let us get close to pull it off [besides it’s very dangerous to do so, those sharp bills can stab very deep and herons go for shiny areas–like eyes!], but we tried anyway.

After leaving the drama of that little area and running through another wooded area full of biting flies, we heard lots of splashing and, after finally getting all the flies to leave us alone, we found the source of splashes.

The water was rippling with fish. It appeared that most were mosquito fish and that the alligators were chasing after them, but we did spot some slightly larger fish…either way, it would take a lot to fill the alligator’s belly, reptile or not!

Both times that we have visited this area, the clouds have looked like this! Maybe something to do with the seabreeze? There’s an alligator in this photo, too! We didn’t move from this spot for an hour, there were 8 alligators [or more] in this area. Most of them were quite large.

There were four Tricolored Herons in the spot trying to get fish as well. I didn’t envy them and their task one bit.

We watched the alligators thrash around as they tried to catch fish. Once they caught a fish [or two?], they slightly lifted their heads and chomped their meals.

The kicker part of the whole walk was the fact that we had been no more than 10 ft from obviously hungry alligators, jumping every time they thrashed. I think it might have been this fellow above that decided he wanted to be where the action was, and after swimming towards us to get a better look, he backed off. We didn’t realize that when we walked up a dozen yards on the impoundment, surrounded on both sides by water, that we were blocking his path! As we retreated the few steps back to the place we had stood for an hour, I mentioned I felt like looking over my shoulder the whole time we had been there. Then, right where we were, came this fellow:

Even though we pulled several muscles while there from jumping so much, this places is an absolute favorite! Though there were 8 hungry alligators feeding in the area, they generally aren’t out for human meat, though they certainly do deserve respect. This place has, both times we’ve visited, supplied us with natural entertainment and I’m eager for another visit!

Thanks for stopping by!