Guest Post: When Birding, Pay Attention To Your Sixth Sense


Andy is back with another post from his adventures on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail! For more information on the trail, you can reach Andy at 850-488-9453, or send send an email to

Note: Andy is a lifelong birder and outdoor enthusiast, and is a trained professional with the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. When exploring Florida, make sure to always to be cautious and pay attention to your surroundings. The University of Florida/IFAS has some great information on staying safe around alligators in Florida here: Now, let's get on with Andy's post!

Do you ever get the feeling that somebody or something is watching you? What did it feel like? Did it excite you? 

By now you are probably aware that I am from a country far removed from Florida. England is nothing like Florida. The wildlife is very different. Some bird species are found in both England and Florida, but for the most part, the fauna is completely different. One of the big differences is alligators; I love ‘em. 

I’ve lived in Florida for eight years and I see alligators every time I go to count shorebirds at St. Marks NWR, but I’ve never felt threatened by them in any way, shape or form, until...

I arrived at one of my favorite haunts at the refuge and immediately noticed a large gathering of wading birds and alligators frequenting a long narrow channel, which I dubbed as “The Channel of Death!” Water levels had been dropping as the summer heat intensified and large numbers of fish had no choice but to seek refuge in the channel. Storks, egrets, herons and a few gators were taking advantage, and the fishing was easy for these highly evolved species. I was having a blast and taking lots of pictures, when I suddenly got this uncomfortable sensation. I looked up from my spotting scope and not 20 feet from me was the biggest alligator I’d ever seen! He was in full threat posture with his back arched and his massive head and tail pointing skyward! I froze, my heart thumping in my chest! All of a sudden this massive bull let out a bellowing roar. It’s really hard to describe how I felt, but it was a myriad of incredible sensations; a natural high that was much more exhilarating than any roller coaster ride I’d ever been on. Thankfully my truck was close by and I slowly positioned myself behind the tailgate and snapped a few pictures. 

Over the last year, I’ve seen this bull a lot and he has earned my respect. I don’t feel threatened by him as he often swims away when he sees my truck approaching. He measures at least 13 feet and probably weighs over 750 pounds! He is the King of all the gators in that area and long may his reign continue. Florida really is an amazing place to watch wildlife! But you must be aware of your surroundings and always use common sense.

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