Wildlife and a Wild Life

October 28, 2014 – Even the short and routine walk down the street to the community pool can yield surprises.  Several days ago, a small alligator (4 or 5 feet long) was sunning itself on the grass between the lagoon and the dirt road where I walked.  The alligator’s mouth was open, giving the impression of the gator smiling, or perhaps getting ready to bite something.  But that’s not the case; gators usually do this open-mouth thing to cool off.  

What surprised me was that the weather was not hot; the temperature was a comfortable, dry 72 degrees F.  I didn’t think the gator should be that hot.  I hope he/she is okay.

After I swam my 2 kilometers, I walked back to the house.  On the way, I noticed that the gator was gone.

Alligator sunning in the grass in March 2011, in about the same spot where I saw a smaller gator with mouth open last week.

The next day (Friday), I decided to run in the deep end of the pool.  Suspending myself vertically in the water, with no floats, I literally run as fast as I can for an hour.  This is more difficult than swimming 2 kilometers, and it is much more difficult than treading water.  Try it sometime.  After she saw me do this, an aerobics instructor once told me, “I don’t see how you can do that for an hour.”

But I get along just fine in water.  On land, I have more difficulty.  I’m just not built for running, and the doctor told me a few years ago, “no more running,” after he looked at my knee x-rays.  I know he meant “no more running on land.”

The great thing about running in the deep end of the pool (as opposed to swimming laps) is that my head is above water and I can see every car or bike that goes down our little dead-end street, picturesquely named Old Banyan Way.

That morning, I saw only one vehicle go by during the entire one-hour workout.  It was the mail truck.  Our letter carrier drives just a little bit too fast. 

After my “run,” as I started to walk down the street toward home, I saw a flattened snake in the middle of the road.  It must have been smashed by the mail truck.  I paused to photograph the snake with my phone, so I could identify it with certainty.  It was some type of rat snake, and I was sad about its demise.  As you know from my October 10 blog entry, I’ve learned to love snakes that eat palm rats.

At home, I pulled out my copy of Florida's Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians again and perused the pages on the various kinds of rat snakes.   There I was reminded that rat snakes kill their prey by constricting them first.  Then they swallow it whole, head first.
The racer that I wrote about on October 10 is not a constrictor, even though its Latin name is coluber constrictor priapus.  Why do these nomenclature experts torture us this way?

Corn snake flattened by the mail truck last Friday on Old Banyan Way
I decided that this particular specimen of rat snake was probably a corn snake, but just to be sure, I emailed its photo to Chris Lechowicz, the herpetologist at the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation. 

He responded:  “Yes, it is a corn snake. Technically, a corn snake is a type (species) of rat snake (like a Dalmatian is a type of dog). ‘Rat snake’ is very general term referring to many species of snakes (only two here though). However, what we call a yellow rat snake on the island is actually one of the common rat snakes (or specifically the eastern rat snake). The corn snake and yellow rat snake both have the same Genus (Pantherophis) but they are a different species (guttatus and alleghaniensis). So to answer your question, it is a corn snake (which is a species of rat snake).”

Today, as I began a long walk this morning, I saw that the flattened corn snake was gone.  Either Chris came by to collect it, or some animal got it.

So yes, Tom and I have been hanging out with nature (alligators, snakes, etc.) out here on the west end of Sanibel, avoiding crowds and enjoying the peace and quiet of hurricane season, which will soon end.  We completely skipped Baileyfest on Sunday – Sanibel’s only version of Oktoberfest.  Baileyfest is a silly and fun event that occurs in the parking lot of the Bailey’s General Store shopping center.  It is great for families with kids.

We did venture over there well after the festival was over, to dine at George and Wendy’s Grill.  One of the Baileyfest tents was still standing, but for the most part, the festival had been dismantled and the crowd was gone.  We feasted on shrimp scampi (for Tom) and pina colada snapper (for me).  Dinner was delicious.  Bravo Chef Janis!

At a Zonta potluck party in 2011, my little car in the background.
Yesterday, I ventured out to the east again, this time to go to a Zonta communications committee meeting.  I enjoyed it.  Everyone there was enthusiastic and positive, and we accomplished what we intended to accomplish.  Best of all, I didn’t have to run the meeting. I am so enjoying not being president or chair of anything right now!  (Last year, I finished up four years as president of a nonpartisan political committee whose goal is to work toward “keeping Sanibel Sanibel.”)

Several of us went directly from that meeting to another Zonta meeting, this one for the membership committee, on the west end of the island in lovely Gulf Ridge.  Again, it was a fun meeting full of positive energy, and I didn’t have to chair it. 

I can do administrative work, to be sure, but I confess that after a while, I tire of “running the store.”  I am a project person; that’s what I truly like.  I work on projects that have beginnings, and ends.

One project I started up again in the past several days was genealogy work on ancestry.com.  What precipitated this was the “Wag Stop” discovery (see the October 21 entry in this blog) involving Tom’s relatives.  I decided that I needed to document that Nuckolls line of his family tree on our ancestry.com account.  But I noticed lots of new “hints” waving at me on my own family tree, on my father’s side. 

That led me to tracing my family’s roots back to my 9th great grandfather, Sir Ralph Sadlier.  I realize that a 9th great grandfather is only something like one one-thousandth of my blood, but it was a joy to read about his life in the Wikipedia article about him.  He was something of an uber-administrator who lived in extremely interesting times, and he lived right in the thick of tumultuous happenings in England.  A character in a couple of Hilary Mantel’s historical novels is based on him, and my friend Judy W. recommends these books.

I can’t wait to finish the Randy Wayne White book I’m reading now (Haunted) so that I can start these two novels!

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