It was definitely an interesting weekend to be out photographing wildlife here in East Texas. Early Saturday morning a high pressure system moved into the area, dropping the temperature about ten degrees and the humidity about thirty percent. This cleared out all the clouds and left us with a cobalt blue sky. The local wildlife at the Brazos Bend State Park was out in force.
I was shooting with my Canon 40D and the EF 100-400mm F/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens that I wrote about early last week in my Renting Lenses for the Canon 40D post. I arrived at the park and set my 40D for aperture priority using ISO 100 to get the best exposures with the least amount of noise. I walked about 1/2 mile to a small lake in the park that has three well situated observation platforms and set up my gear. It wasn’t five minutes later that I saw three large Turkey Vultures (or buzzards as we call them in Texas) circling right over my head.
These birds are really a sight to see close up and in this part of the country, many have wingspans of up to 72″ (yes, that’s six feet long). I took about 200 shots just as fast as my 40D would go (6.5 fps) and all that time, these three vultures just kept circling above me. Most folks also know that the Turkey Vulture is a scavenger and that it feeds “primarily” on carrion. So why the hell were these three continuing to circle above me? I’m still not quite sure but when I looked out into the water, this is what I saw swimming right towards me.
I kid you not! This eight foot alligator swam right up to the observation platform I was standing on and looked me square in the eyes. It was obvious that the park visitors or tourists had been feeding the alligators and this one had lost all fear of man. I’m not sure I can stress to those of you that live in areas without alligators, just how serious this kind of situation is. When alligators associate humans with food, we stop being the top predator in the food chain and we start being the prey! This isn’t a zoo and there are no fences separating the alligators from the people. In fact, there are campsites within 200 yards from where I was standing. An easy walk for an adult alligator.
In Texas, we welcome visitors from all over the world. We want you to enjoy your stay and experience a State like no other. Please don’t feed the alligators. The photographer’s life you save may be mine!