Eye to Eye with an Alligator

by Jessica on June 23, 2011

Those who dwell among the beauties and mysteries of the earth are never alone or weary of life. ~Rachel Carson

This year we were introduced to the biography of Rachel Carson, a marine biologist who is credited with founding the modern environmental movement. Carson had a rugged upbringing in a simple Pennsylvania farmhouse where she was regularly able to observe and experience nature. Living in the suburbs, rugged natural moments are few and far between. Reading Rachel Carson’s biography has inspired me to seek out opportunities to explore untouched natural elements. With this is mind, I was thrilled to learn about the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.


My husband totally staged this photography~ Good bloggy husband!

My guys have always enjoyed the zoo as a place to explore nature and have had countless zoo experiences. It seems though, they are much more zoo conquerors rather than zoo enjoyers, treating each animal as another checkmark in timed scavenger hunt. Lately, they have become somewhat unimpressed with the zoo, as though someone let them in on the secret that the whole thing is staged.


This bird totally staged this picture, too.

The Birding Center offers over a mile of boardwalk across the hyper saline Laguna Madre, creating a unique wetland habitat. Considering the reception given to the zoo over the past several visits, I was skeptical that bird watching and animal seeking would keep their attention. Miraculously, the uncertainty of what we could see was just the element that the kids needed to add excitement.


A bird so rare I can't remember its name

With exhilaration that seemed impossible with birds and fish, the kids scurried from one side of the boardwalk to the other as they discovered a school of fish or a blue crab in the shallows. While they were engrossed in finding new species, the grownups were free to talk with local photographers and take a few photos of our own.

The boardwalk was even a thrilling excursion for an energetic baby boy who found plenty of room for running, jumping, and posing for the camera.

All along the boardwalk we had encountered signs warning of the dangers of alligators on the boardwalk. As we rounded the last corner, Dad just happened to catch a peek of a shadow that seemed like it might be an alligator hiding out under the boardwalk. Like lightening, we all hurried to the boardwalk to peer through the slats to see if we could make out the reptile. There were oohs and aahs and audible gasps as we watched the alligator blink and move and breathe.


Is it an alligator or a log?

As I was crouched down watching the giant beast through the half inch slit, it occurred to me why the zoo had been getting the cold shoulder. Of course we had all seen alligators in the zoo many times, but the tameness provided by the cage takes away the adventure. Here was a living breathing alligator in his natural habitat with the potential to attack at any moment. We were visitors in his home where he was the ruler and the feeling that a part of nature was bigger than us was wonderful.


Hello Mr Alligator, Please don't eat me.

Even though my husband has been instructed never to take pictures of my rear end, he snapped this picture as we all marveled at the alligator. Despite the unflattering angle, I am happy to have this picture because it is a pictorial example of another great Rachel Carson quote. She said, “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.”


Willingly having my fanny photographed to teach my children the wonder of nature.

Together, we discovered the mystery of our world with a simple trip to a boardwalk and an eye to eye encounter with an alligator.

Check out more great travel photos at Delicious Baby



wandering educators June 24, 2011 at 8:44 am

what FUN photos – esp the staged one!! and what a fantastic day!

Wanderluster June 24, 2011 at 4:38 pm

You and your “bloggy husband” are quite the team!

Mama Spaghetti June 24, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Haha! What fun photos. My little guy loves boardwalks, too! I wonder what’s so intriguing about them?

Nicole at Arrows Sent Forth June 24, 2011 at 9:04 pm

What a great spot! Our zoo trips are sometimes like that… I totally get it. I love your “rule.” on all our family trips growing up, at some point my dad would get his hands on the camera and snag a secret photo of my mom’s rear. We literrally have pictures of her behind all over the U.S. She was always horrified when she’d get the film developed. Thank goodness for her it was the days before blogging!

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