Once again, bringing you another break from the feathered fodder. Luckily, this time not a result of cargo loads of hate mail showing up at the door. Nope, bringing you a non-birding post on my own terms. Now, I will admit today’s post was a direct result of a birding adventure and the only reason Linda and I were even in this particular spot was to get a new mark on the birding checklist – actually, I can expand that a bit – one of the two reason we headed all the way to the Georgia swamps was to stand at the very spot these shots were taken. I’ll get to those two reasons in a future posts – for now, let’s take a gander at the shot below.
Back in May of 2015 (no idea what happened, the best I can tell is we time warped directly to 2019 – scary) we were visiting Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge which is about 30 miles outside Savannah, Georgia. For those of you not familiar with this refuge, it was established in 1962 on an abandoned military airfield. There are still runways hidden in the overgrown fields along with about 2,800 acres of mixed saltwater marsh, fields and woods. The unique name comes from the peninsula it sits on being originally named Dickenson’s Neck and then later renamed for the principal proprietor in the 18th century, William Harris.
Form your impression of the shots above and then hit the jump to read some intriguing details.
We were standing on a levee probably 3-4 tenths of a mile down from where we parked the RV. That tidbit will become more relevant later, but wanted to set the scene. In a rare moment of weakness, the Beast was resting on a tripod trying my best to compensate for heat waves that were bound and determined to screw up shots of a primary target for the entire vacation. Due to scheduling, it was mid-day and the swamps were living up to their reputation. Regardless, there was still a huge smile on my face knowing the days spent getting there paid off.
With the background out of the way, let’s discuss these first three shot. After getting a number of desired shots in the tin, I started taking in our surroundings. The excitement of the hunt tends to tunnel vision me a bit and if that trip to Georgia taught me one thing it is to NEVER let yourself fall victim to tunnel vision. As I forced myself to expand my perception, different elements started to register on the threat model. Not thinking much about it, I took the first shot of a piece of wood floating in the water. Basically went back to shooting the primary subject only to look up and see said piece of wood had drifted closer to a clump of trees – must be some winds out on the water – back to shooting the main target. Sometime later, I noticed the piece of wood was in a completely different area – now the spider sensors were starting to trigger.
To this day, I am unable to say with any confidence that thing in the water was not just a piece of wood floating around. However, I can say that it immediately made Linda and I keenly aware of where we were standing, the proximity to the previously considered innocent swamp and you guessed it, the exact distance to the RV.
It wasn’t too soon after that this was spotted.
Okay, that is NOT a piece of wood – nope, no way! Pretty sure I saw this specimen first and either decided to mention it to Linda or she noticed where I was intently staring. Being up on the levee, we were a few feet above the water which offered up some safety from the immediate shoreline. Thinking that might have provided some initial false sense of security.
Now this overgrown water lizard had our full attention. Still far enough away to allow us to joke between us about the responsibilities of the “UB” when we are out on a photography shoot. Note, for those not familiar with our “UB” term, simply translate that to the person considered the “helper” for the day. For example, if we are at a birding session, Linda is the “helper” where the role reverses if we are on a waterfall trip.
I was debating from the position that the UB’s responsibility is to directly engage with any hostile wildlife that might come too close so the “arteeeeest” could continue getting the trophy shots in the tin. Linda decided to take the debate angle that I was an idiot. At some point in this hot debate, Mr. Lizard started turning straight at us. It also lowered its body into the water.
“Hmmm, that was odd, Honey, did you see that?” Her eyes immediately provided the answer to that. She saw it and I am guessing she was trying to tell me something, but it sounded like Yiddish or maybe early onset of Tourette Syndrome. I decided to take advantage of the distraction and quickly made an attempt to win the debate “…and for those reasons I think I have clearly made my case that the UB is, indeed, responsible for the safety of the arteeeeest” and then dropped the mic. This might have been an effective tactic had the prehistoric creature not made another turn towards us.
Now Linda’s eyes were as wide as they get, her mouth was dropped open and she was rapidly repeating my name as if it enabled her Wonder Twin powers. By now the snake with legs had dispensed with any notion of being clever about it and was approaching us dead on making its way very close to the levee bank. By this time, Linda was now positioned to use me as a shield in complete disregard for her UB duties. I made a mental note to document the set of UB responsibilities later at the campsite.
I was just about to give Linda some credit for at least facing down the threat albeit from behind me. The Beast was still on the tripod and as you can see, I was still taking as many pictures as I could. Unfortunately, I do have a history of this behavior and sometime Linda should recount our previous encounter with a Bear in the Grand Tetons. My praise for her willpower was cut short when our little friend slowly lowered itself completely into the water. There we were, staring at a slime covered marsh with absolutely no idea where the threat had gone. It didn’t even make a ripple as it submerged nor were there any water trails that provided any clues as to where the hell it was headed.
That was the official tipping point. Linda screamed and bolted directly for the RV – she hauled ass for the entire distance to the RV screaming something about “it’s been fun, don’t worry, the boys and I will enjoy Aruba on your life insurance!” Shocked, I just stood and watched her turn into the Flash right before my eyes. For the record, Linda is NOT a runner, hates everything about running and wants no part of my favorite hobby, but by the looks of it, she could hold her own with any world class sprinter – granted it took her like a week to recover ha!
So there I stood on the levee all alone with gear that made it prohibitive to do anything beyond waddle should the threat decided I was a perfect choice for lunch. Still shocked from seeing my wife break a land speed record, I opted to go back to what I was doing before being rudely interrupted by the Gator. Take a shot, step back and scan the water, take a shot, step back and scan the water. Finally got the shots I wanted in the tin – still never got around the vapor issue and assumed it would just need more work in the digital darkroom. As I was packing up, I did notice a Gator was swimming off in the direction of the clump of trees in the initial set of pictures in this post.
As mentioned, I’ll never know if that was more than a piece of wood earlier, but one thing is for sure, there are Gators in the Neck. Unfortunately, I didn’t take this lesson to heart and ended up putting myself in some serious danger while exploring other parts of the park – probably the most danger I’ve ever been in while out in the field (beyond a bit of quicksand I got trapped in while exploring Jubilee Park alone). Will cover this more serious event later in the month. Right now thinking I should go make Linda one of those magnetic running stickers for the car that says 0.4.