Day 3: Owls, Alligators, Snails, and Lake Chekika

We left our camp this morning before the sun rose because we had a two hour drive to our worksite of the day, Lake Chekika. After meeting the other park volunteers who would be working with us, we stopped at a pond to see a pair of large alligators and several generations of their babies basking on rocks. That was pretty neat, but then the park volunteers showed us their next surprise: a barred owl sitting in a low tree with its baby. The baby owl had recently fledged and it was almost as large as its parent, but it was still covered with fluffy down.

When we were finished admiring the owls we headed out to clear some overgrown areas that were once driveways and campgrounds for park volunteers. Wild coffee plants and green briar vines were starting to poke out into the clear areas and we had to cut them back until the driveways were wide enough for cars again. The park volunteers collected the huge piles of brush we collected and hauled them off with ATVs.

As we lopped and sawed the plants, we uncovered lizards and huge spiders and a few large white tree snails. Apparently the snails are rare in most parts of the park because visitors steal them for their shells.

Back at camp we lined up for dinner as usual and got a visit from Crooks, a laughing gull with only one leg (apparently he had been around earlier in the month). Crooks was very interested in our food and flew down low over table. The strong breeze coming off the bay held him hovering in place just a few feet over our heads for a good five minutes as hysterical screaming (and hysterical laughter) broke out below. Crooks didn’t seem to care much about the noise we were making, but eventually he realized that he wasn’t going to be having dinner with us and the breeze carried him away.