On our second official visit to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, our plan was simple: photograph as many birds as possible for a “Birds of January” story we’d been working on. And it was a great plan…until we arrived at the park and person after person greeted us with, “You won’t believe the gators!!”

For those of you who haven’t been to South Florida’s parks, there’s an unspoken “gator code” among parkgoers: people let you know when there’s a gator around, especially if you’re carrying camera gear. Many tips turn out to be dead-ends, as I’ve mentioned before, but it was pretty clear by the growing frenzy of alligator excitement—there were sunning gators! swimming gators! walking gators!—there was a good chance we’d stumble across our tanned and leathery reptile friends. So we immediately set off at a speedy pace and headed in the direction where an eight- to ten-footer was last seen. We had to act fast. And so we did.

 

When plans change, embrace the possibilities!

 

And it’s a good thing we did, because the day was nothing short of a gator bonanza. With a legitimate eight-foot gator cruising the wetland waters, as seen in the featured image Cruising, and another seven-footer sunning on a perfectly-chosen bank, we captured some fantastic shots with our 70-200mm and 300mm lenses.

 

Sunning Alligator at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Warming Up

 

A 2x boost (Canon’s 2x III extender) added some needed reach for Warming Up, a portrait of a grinning gator who just happened to be in the mood for posing that day. And despite the weekend foot traffic, which is always a challenge at the wetlands, the park was filled with unexpected sights that made for another great visit. There weren’t quite as many birds as we’d expected, so I guess we’ll try again in early February for a “Birds of February” post. ;-)

 

Red-Winged Blackbird at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Blackbird Quick

 

Blackbird Quick was a lighting-fast red-winged blackbird with some mean vocals (take a listen below). Though the lens I was using wasn’t the best for that particular moment, I was able to snap a few action shots during our stare down. And who could blame him for staring me down? I was most likely interrupting a major bird symphony with friends.

 

A Quick Listen: The Red-Winged Blackbird

 

Sadly, many of the birds that make the wetlands their home must be on constant watch for iguanas, who happen to love nests full of eggs. Iguanas aren’t a native Florida species, so around nesting time they’re particularly unwelcome. It’s probably a bad idea for an iguana to anger a great blue heron, or even an anhinga on high alert, but we spotted several iguanas hanging around their nesting areas, patiently waiting for the perfect opportunity to grab a quick meal.

 

Iguana at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Intruder Alert

 

Nesting Anhinga at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Nesting Anhinga

 

Great Blue Heron at Wakodahatchee Wetlands

Simply Great

 

Even with our last-minute change in plans, we certainly made the most of our second visit to Wakodahatchee. We also broke in some new equipment during our visit: an Induro monopod and Think Tank backpack. We loved them both. The monopod was lightweight and great for steadying our bigger lenses, and the backpack was surprisingly roomy and very comfortable. A thumbs up to both.

If you live in Florida, and know of good locations for gator shoots, throw us a bone and let us know in the comments below! We’ll be happy to give you a shout-out if we feature the location in a future post.

Missed our first trip to the Wakodahatchee Wetlands? Revisit it in Wetlands We Walk.