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hungry gators

2012-10-04 - 6:18 p.m.

Headed out to the Alabama Gulf Coast Bird Fest, leaving Nyota and the gang in the capable hands of the house-sitter. A little worried but what do you do?

We picked up our packets at the Delta 5 Rivers Hall and took a spin through the museum, with its somewhat random collection of taxidermied animals such as a part-albino and full albino deer, owls, random swamp and wetland dwellers, and an entire Osprey nest complete with glittering fish scales. However, there were several living specimens too, all various interesting local non-venomous snakes.

At the official hotel we learned that we were getting free cheese and crackers, followed by seafood gumbo, in addition to the free wine and beer. Wheeee....

This morning we hopped up bright and early in order to head for Dauphin Island, where we took a spin on the Alabama Discovery research vessel. There was an American Kestrel who cruised the parking lot and one (one!) lonely Oystercatcher snoozing in the rocks. Other than that, it was pretty much a bust for the birds. They put out a net to catch a bunch of different varieties of fish, and we were vastly entertained by an estimated 8 to 12 dolphins who followed us for some time. After the dolphins were full, the gulls (almost all Laughing), Royal Terns, and Brown Pelicans chased us for the freebies.

Of the dizzying array of new fish we met, I think I liked best the stingray (which was pink) and the Silver Eel, which looked like it was made of beaten silver. Actually, Silver Eel is just slang, because that's what it looks like. It's actually the Cutlass Fish. Still my favorite. However, I did not meet all the fish, because I forgot to take my motion sickness pills before we departed and, yeppers, I got violently seasick. Yikes. I wasn't the only one, but I was the youngest one, so it was still a little awkward.

We picnicked at Cadillac Square afterward, and then we hit a few hotspots such as the Indian Shell Mound. It was the wrong time of day to catch a ton of birds, especially with this beautifully sunny weather which doesn't exactly rain birds out of the sky, but we must have encountered about a zillion butterflies, including fritillaries and Monarchs.

No one had bothered to update the bird sightings log since we'd been there in April? Weird. I should have put out a new page myself but I had the thought and then promptly forgot it. Downy Woodpeckers, one adult male Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, all three Mimids (and all of them singing at least a little), White-eyed Vireo, American Redstart, Yellow- rumped Warbler...but I think my favorite has to be the several Black and White Warblers that happened to be passing through.

Back to the hotel for a brief rest, and then I went in search of gators. The rumored 10 footer in the hotel bayou put in an appearance, and then I somehow crossed the street to stroll the Daphne "Gator Alley" boardwalk. I walked quite a way, without seeing any further gators. Then a guy directing traffic asked me if I wanted to see any gators and suggested, "Try that path." I did, and I met the humongous ginormous obviously obscenely bulging crop granddaddy alligator of them all. I don't even think I knew that gators HAD crops before I saw this ole boy. In fact, his crop probably holds four or five babies gators that he snapped up as an appetizer. Let's hope my photos come out.

Now we're sitting in one of the windows to view the sun setting over the D'Olive Bay. This free reception offers not just wine and beer but meatballs, eggrolls, mini-quiches, and I don't know what all. Veggies and fruits. Hummus and herb dip. Cheese cubes. Who needs to pay for dinner? Wheeeee.....the alligator is fattening us up for the kill.

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