In August 2018, I was able to visit the Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina and watch American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). The park is a great place to watch these majestic animals. As you enter the park, you drive along a causeway that separates Mullet Pond from a swampy area around Oaks Creek. Alligators can be seen along either side of the causeway, but stopping on the causeway is prohibited. There is a parking area at the end of the causeway. You can park there, and then walk back along the causeway. This provides a great way to view alligators in the open water.
You can also drive back to the park office & gift shop, and walk along the Atalaya Straight Road between Mullet Pond and Mallard Pond. There are many trees and other vegetation growing along the path here, and a lot more emergent vegetation in the water. So your views of the alligators will be very different.
Here are a few of the photos I took of alligators along the causeway near sunset. If you’d like to purchase a print or digital license, just click on the photo, and it will take you to my smugmug natural history photography site.
A large alligator at sunset:
A close-up of an alligator’s head as it swims through the water:
An alligator swims diagonally across the frame, leaving a wake behind it:
This is perhaps the favorite photo I’ve taken in 2018. I love the MC Escher-esque effect of black and white patterns on the water, with a gator in the middle:
The Pacific Sand Crab (Emerita analoga) is one of the delightful creatures you can find in the surf of beaches along the Pacific Coast of North and South America. These small (up to 1.5 inches / 3.8 cm) crustaceans are a delight for kids and adults to find and observe. As waves lap the beach, the crabs will swim into the water, and then burrow back into the sand as the water recedes. Here is a video showing how the sand crab can bury itself in less than two seconds:
In late May 2018, I came across this planarian among the leaves on the forest floor in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Planarians are part of the group of animals known as Platyhelmintes. Although planarians look a bit like earthworms, they are only distantly related to earthworms and other members of the Annelida. Interestingly, there are many planarians that hunt and eat earthworms.
Although, I knew it was a planarian, I did not know that they could be found in Ohio. Some investigation on my own, and helpful information from contributors on iNaturalist indicated that this was probably a Wandering Broadhead Planarian (Bipalium adventitium). These are an introduced species here in Ohio. If you come across them in Ohio or other parts of the midwest, I would be interested in hearing about it and seeing photos. Please feel free to contact me at mfbenard (at) gmail.com
A male whitetail deer jogged right by me while I was standing in my driveway in Shaker Heights, Ohio. Apparently, two does ran by just a minute or two earlier, but I didn’t see them. This buck was in hot pursuit. He came close enough that I could have touched him, but he was obviously focused on following the does. The video was taken in mid-November, 2017.
mister-toad.com is the personal website and blog of Mike Benard, a biologist who studies the ecology, evolution and conservation of amphibians and other organisms.
Mike can be contacted at: mfbenard -at- gmail . com.