Like always, this trip to Paynes Prairie was a very different one and a very memorable one at that. This time when we went, we saw the harrier hawk again, great blue herons, great egrets, pied-billed grebes, the wild horses, a very young raccoon, a few song birds and just a hand-full of active alligators. Because it was so cold that day, about 40˚F, most reptile activity was at a minimum because of the fact that they are cold blooded and require sunlight and warmth to be capable to move and hunt. So while we were there most of the alligators we saw were along the bank sunning and trying to stay warm.
This was one of the great blue herons we saw that day. Because it was so cold and windy most of the animals were trying to hunker down out of the elements so they could keep warm, which made it easy for us to get really close and get some good photos of them.
Here is one of the grebes we saw that day. I was able to get a photo of its catch, a crayfish, before it shot back under the water. These birds are very interesting, because I have seen them all over the country and each time I see them they always have managed to catch some form of prey, even just a matter of minutes which is astounding for a species to be that efficient at catching prey. And once their prey is caught they turn it and swallow it whole, head first, because like all other birds they have no teeth to chew their prey with.
We got to see this young raccoon in broad daylight, which is a little concerning. That either meant he did not know what to do because he was too young, or he had a disease that caused his behavior to be altered. Regardless we gave him distance and let him do his own thing.
We were able to see the White Herd again, unfortunately the white mare was too deep in the brush to get a clear photo. This was another mare of the herd and she was pregnant and whenever dealing with a pregnant animal, wether it is a horse or a bear or an orca, you need to give it plenty of room because it could attack at any second if it feels that you are threatening it. More people are attacked by mother or pregnant bears than solo bears that are both male and female, so there is hard fact to back that reasoning. So if you ever see a pregnant animal while you are in the great outdoors make sure to keep a safe distance and let it do its own thing.
This is by far one of my most memorable moments in Paynes Prairie. I spotted the harrier perched right by the trail and I was able to slowly work my way to it until I was within three feet and my lens would’t focus. I backed off and gave her space and some hikers came down the trail and spooked her and it literally took her less than a second to get off the perch and shoot into the trees. It is truly incredible to watch them fly through brush because they can change their wings from being vertical to horizontal or bend them in to dodge branches in a fraction of a second. Nature is amazing!