Only a portion of the The La Chua Trail was open today, due to high water. The weather was unseasonably warm and many alligators were sunning along the banks of the canal leading to the Alachua Sink. The late afternoon light made their scales glow and shimmer.
Then we came upon this juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron balanced on a branch over the water. Dry habitat was so diminished that the birds and wildlife stayed where they were, either ignoring the few people who ventured along the trail or just keeping a watchful eye.
Right by where the trail was closed off, there was a narrow platform over the water. We walked out on it and were watching some birds in the distance, commenting quietly, when this big alligator made a bellowing noise. We were very surprised at first, because we couldn't see what was making the sound as the alligator was totally submerged under the vegetation. It was quite loud since the alligator was right by our feet, because the water was almost level with the bank. We all felt badly that we had disturbed him and understood why the trail was closed, because it would have been so easy to unintentionally step too close to a slumbering gator where the trail becomes narrower.
The La Chua trail is one of the best wildlife viewing areas I have been too in North Florida. There are always lots of gators in the canal leading to the sink and the marshlands are home to many birds. From the trail, it is easy to see how droughts and floods impact the prairie and the ways these changes affect the creatures that inhabit this area.