Magic of the Everyday, Nature, Personal Life

Welcoming 2016

A beautiful sunrise.

I can’t quite believe it’s already 2016, but it is. The holidays passed in a whirlwind for me, in part due to some last-minute readjustments as dog-care plans fell through and were (fortunately) replaced by someone able to care for my timed medication-dependent dog. Whew!

Yesterday, to celebrate the new year, the spousal unit and I went for a hike at yet another new (for us) park. This one was the Barr Hammock Preserve.

First gator of the new year!
First gator of the new year!

I was hoping to see the sandhill cranes, and some did fly overhead as we walked, but none landed anywhere near us. We did, however see our first–and third, fourth, fifth, etc.–alligator of the new year! The second big one was quite the surprise. Both husband and I saw, way down the trail, a large dark branch on the trail. We looked away, unsurprised by a fallen branch. When we looked back, the “branch” was no longer there. Yes, when we reached the spot, there was our alligator “branch,” safely nestled into the duckweed and hyacinth-laced waters, keeping an eye on us to make sure we didn’t pursue it.

We also managed to spy lots of little gators, under a foot long, including their tails. Anhinga were plentiful, and egrets, and we even spied a pileated woodpecker darting away from us. Turtles were numerous, and while the signage indicated we might see otters or wild cats, we only once saw a definite otter slide–but no live otters anywhere. Not surprising, since it was early afternoon.

On the trip back, though, we got our real surprise. We were nearing the parking lot, and I had relaxed my vigilance in “trail watching” for wildlife. Husband suddenly yanked my arm, jerking my body against his. I turned to him, angry, since I knew there was no alligator near–I hadn’t gotten that silly! Instead, he pointed to the trammeled brown grass edging the trail.

A snake, somewhere between 2.5-3 feet long, slumbered in the filtered sunshine there, not 3 feet from where I stood. It was a cotton mouth! That big, triangular head and skinny neck, and the flat (instead of shiny) dark scales gave it away. Yes, I know they say you can tell a poisonous snake from a non-poisonous one from the eyes (slit pupils for poisonous, round pupils for non) and from the pits near the nose, but I’ve never gotten near enough to a potentially poisonous snake to discern those things.

Even so, since this snake was so docilely snoozing, and quite oblivious to our presence, I leaned my shoulders close enough to be pretty darn sure it was the poisonous cotton mouth, (aka, water moccasin), not the non-venomous water snake. I was tempted to take a photo, but decided not to push my luck.

Five steps later, it was me yanking husband back from the 2-foot long cotton mouth who was angling his head upwards, in an irritated 45 degree angle–warning us away. Husband would have stepped on this one, since he was still focused on getting away from the first. We didn’t linger, but stepped wide and just kept moving! It was obviously “snake basking hour” and we wanted no more of that! But what an exhilarating start to 2016.

Just FYI, the new year will bring more blogging here on both writing and on life, as well as a few surprises–good ones, I hope! I’ll be back soon with a round-up of last year, and my goals for the upcoming one. But let me enjoy the remainder of this weekend, basking in the peaceful quietude, before delving into that.

Here’s wishing us all a better year than last. Happy 2016.

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