Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sunshine, lightning, an alligator and snake

Today was another sunny day here in Florida, but then pretty much every day is sunny, that’s why they call it the Sunshine State, I guess?  The weather is very different from my home town in the North of England, but so far, I am adapting well to the lack of dark, cold, grey, rainy days that go on and on and leave you feeling melancholy, grim and forlorn.

As well as the sunshine, they do have hurricanes here, of course, though I’ve yet to experience one of those.  I’ve endured a few serious electrical storms, however.  They are certainly dramatic and I am reminded why this area of the world is known as “Lightning Alley”.  The rumble of the accompanying thunder can be very loud too, though interestingly because Florida is as flat as a pancake, it never has that echoing-through-the-valley sound effect that you get in the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria.

My running shoes
With no job to sap my time and energy and needing to keep fit, I have been going out running every day.  This past week I’ve been encountering some of the neighbourhood wildlife at what the locals call the “small pond”.  A pond is generally a rather tiny ornamental thing in England, but this stretch of water is about the size of a running track with brush and a stagnant stream running along its far side.

Anyway, for the past few days I’ve been seeing a small alligator in the pond.  It’s only about 4 foot long which makes it very much a youngster in gator terms.  They are remarkably good at camouflage, having perfected the art of making themselves look like pieces of partially submerged driftwood and vegetation, whilst they wait for their prey to come to the water’s edge.  But as this gator hangs out in almost exactly the same spot every day, it’s not been too difficult to locate, once I’ve trained my eyes.  He’s scared of me though, and when I get too near, he panics and splashes off under the water and away from the pond side.

I'm only a few yards away but he's not easy to see!

Let's zoom in a little and catch him lurking.
 After two days of good sightings, the gator wasn’t there when I went past today.  Maybe he’s moved on to greener pastures (or swampier waters), or maybe because today’s been cooler and he’s cold-blooded, he’s decided not to venture out?  Whilst I was looking for him, however, my eye was drawn to what I believed to be a bicyle inner tube that somebody had dumped by the water’s edge.  The way it was curled up looked funny somehow.  As I moved in closer, I noticed that the “inner tube” had a head – it was a large grey snake looking straight at me!

(When I described the incident to my wife later, she informed me that I needed to watch out for poisonous snakes when going near the pond.  “They won’t harm you unless you approach them quickly, or step on or over them,” she told me.  Which is not exactly reassuring advice for a runner, who is by nature, approaching everything pretty swiftly and stepping on or over things, as a matter of course!)

I guess I’m in two minds about the “exotic” local animal life that you find here.  On the one hand, I find it exciting and amazing that some creatures that I would only have been able to see in a zoo back in the UK are running around freely over here.  On the other, I really don’t fancy the idea of being bitten, or having some huge spider drop on my head when I’m in the woods, or suchlike, that would be Nature getting too close-up for my liking!

It’s a dichotomy I could ponder for some time.  But all in all, I guess the alligator and snake were here first (the gators have been around since prehistoric times) and there’s enough sunshine around in Florida for everbody, man or beast, to share.


  1. Haha! Oh my.
    If it were me I would have screamed like a little bitch.
    Although, if it were a cockroach I would have probably screamed too.
    I'm good like that ;-)

  2. Well, after some investigation, it may well not be a poisonous snake which reduces the risks considerably...however, even non-poisonous snakes can bite and be aggressive. I would be prudent... lol

  3. I lived in Clearwater Fl from 82 to 93, then for 10 months in 04, from 82 to 93 we had one hurricane, we had to stay at my Mom's hospital, it was Elena and just kept churning out in the gulf, then in 04 that summer we had four hurricanes, that and the crappy job market made me move back up here to North Carolina. I like Florida, I have a lot of friends down there, but its too hot in the summer, and I like the change of seasons, so I like to visit Florida, but probably wont live there again, if I was to move anywhere again it would be to the mountains of North Carolina, or to Austin,Tx, thats a fun town, I went to school there. Kevin

  4. Paul, I am envious of your opportunity to get into shape right now! I am trying, but between school and work, it is a bit of a challenge to make it all come naturally, which is what I think the ideal should be.

    Having just come back from a two week trek in Northern Ireland, I can appreciate some of the differences, although here in Pennsylvania's rolling valleys and ridges, it looks very similar, just with tons of more trees. But I sense the beginning of a good poem, or poems in this blog entry. Is something eating at you to be written in verse? :-) I hope so! It seemed there were sheep everywhere over there, and of course no snakes or alligators. Heck I might not have been surprised to see a lamb canter by in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast!

    Anyway, I don't think I ever did say it before, but Welcome to America!

  5. @Ashleigh - the wildlife is certainly, erm, interesting! :-)

  6. @Romina *puts fingers in ears* :-)

  7. @Abby The snake was a black racer, I think. That's what I gathered from Wiki anyway. :-)

  8. @Kevin - I've heard good things above Austin.

    @Dadpoet - the countryside in Northern Ireland is supposed to be v beautiful, though I've never been. I was in Home Depot yesterday, that is an inspirational place!

  9. Petrified of snakes - I'd avoid an area I was previously running in if I saw a snake. We have some nasties here in South Africa, although not really in built up areas. We have puff adders in South Africa (and a few other dangerous ones too) - have to get to hospital within about 30 minutes after a bite from a puff adder - they're lazy too, don't get out of your way and due to their colouring, you may step right on one. Didn't know you did a bit of running - if you ever come to our part of the world, you might enjoy doing the Surfers Marathon in East London, along the coastline, swim two rivers, soft sand and rocks - 17km - or just over 10 miles.