Thursday, June 27, 2013

Gatorland Sights and Sounds!

Wow! I was truly amazed by some of the sights and sounds I saw at Gatorland during my visit in June 2013. I had visited Gatorland in Orlando, Florida in June 2012 and loved it. Feeding the alligators, watching the shows, and the birds!

Bird's eye view of Gatorland from the three story tower observatory.

When I returned to Florida a year later I knew I was going to visit Gatorland again. This visit was even better. There was a threat of rain and some sprinkles now and then, but I decided to go anyway. I arrived just after 4pm on this overcast day, not expecting much and thinking I might even get rained out. I was greeted at the ticket booth with the news that since the park was closing in less than two hours admission was half price. Sweet!

I stopped and talked to the lady selling hot dogs to feed to the gators. We talked about the storms that had been in the area (there was a tropical storm coming in from the gulf). She mentioned that it was mating season for the gators and they were sometimes more active during overcast and rainy times.

I decided to walk through the outdoor parts while the rain held off. I stopped and fed the Emu's on the way toward the back of the park. The Emu's are so funny. Check out this Emu Feeding Time video!

Emu Closeup (photo taken at Gatorland, Orlando, FL)
Being in Gatorland isn't like being in a zoo. This is like being in the wild, with only a raised planked walkway and a fence separating you from the swamp and gator areas.

It's amazing to watch the herons, egrets and other birds nesting, preening and frolicking in the trees, nearly oblivious to a quiet visitor. This isn't at all like watching birds in a zoo. These birds choose to live and breed here, they have built their nests where they chose and there's no cage to hold them. The birds are lively and lovely.

Snowy Egret
After walking through the park and taking many photos a strange sound started coming from the water areas. It sounded like nothing I had heard before. Sort of like an elephant. It was the gators making their deep bellowing mating calls. The calls carry far through the area and are quite loud when you are near a gator making the call. One of the visitors stopped me and asked "what is that sound"? I said I think it's the gators. Sure enough, it was soon confirmed where the sound was coming from. As there was a small group of people watching a couple of nearby gators who were making the call.

Want to hear the sound? Check out this Alligator Mating Call video. It can't quiet compare to hearing it in person, but you'll get an idea of what it sounds like.

Gator Mating Call
Before leaving the marsh area I decided to go up to the top of the three story observatory. I really didn't know what to expect since I had never been up there before. Simply put, it was awesome!

Instead of feeling further away from everything it gave you a sense of the scope of nature. It was cool to see the gators swimming individually or in small groups from this height. It was also neat to see the trees dotted with bright white egrets. But the best surprise seen from the observatory was a being able to look down into a nest built in a tree very close to the top level of the observatory.

There was a pair of Double-crested Cormorants in the tree. One was on the nest and one was nearby on the same branch. I didn't take much notice of them at first, but after taking a look around I went back and realized they had young, featherless chicks in the nest.

The young ones were hungry and squawking for food! Such a site. Take a look at this Double-crested Cormorant Family video.

Double-crested Cormorant chick
Well, I ran my camera out of batteries and memory before heading in from the marsh area. I spent the little bit of time I had left looking at the giant tortoises, the new panther exhibit and, of course, more alligators.

American Alligator at Gatorland Orlando.
If you're an animal lover don't skip Gatorland. It's a really cool place. And if you go and get some good pictures we'd love to see them. Post below or upload them to Skyenimals, an animal website for kids! Checkout our gator wallpaper images, bird wallpaper images and all our favorite pictures from Gatorland on the Skyenimals Gatorland page.

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