After scouting spots using light pollution maps and Google maps, I found a fantastic spot for watching things like meteor showers, of which there was one last night. Also, Space X was going to be launching a rocket from The Cape. Also, there was no moon or clouds. All things were falling into place for a nerdtastic photo.
We Drove and hour out to the spot and even before our eye can adjust tothe dark, the star field was bright and glorious. The Milky Way was just visible over the horizon, right where the rocket was to go up. Before heading out, I did some compass work to make sure that I would be able to point the camera in the right place while setting up in the dark. Everything was perfect. Except, we weren’t alone. When I was setting up, Lady SonicGabe pointed out that she could hear gator noises, which I heard as well. The dog took notice, too. But they were just regular gator noises, nothing to worry about. I’ve had plenty of gator encounters in the wild in my day. No big deal. Lady SonicGabe and the dog went back to sit in the cab of the truck while I dialed in the settings on the new camera and took some test shots.
About five minutes before the launch, I heard a bad sound. Very bad. A gator in the ditch just 10 to 15 to my right (you can see the ditch on the right side in the picture) started growling. Not little pulses, but a sustained growl. And it was loud. And he was a big boy. This went on for about 15 seconds. Most of the other insect and animal noises stopped. I could also hear it climbing up out of the water and making it’s way through the grass to the top of the ditch. At this point, I was already throwing the camera, still on the tripod through the open driver’s side window and tossing some chairs we brought in the back of the truck. I had sternly asked Lady SonicGabe for help, but it was more of a heads-up that I was coming in hot. She opened her door for a second and heard the growl, too. Once all the gear was in the truck, I hastily packed it up and got the hell out of there.
So, we missed the rocket launch. I didn’t get any really good pictures. This pic was the best one. A car was coming, so it’s headlights lit up the road and foreground a little, which is was nice. But I did see one spectacular meteor, though I didn’t get a picture of it. And I still have all my limbs, so that counts for something, right? Let me add that I’ve been out in the middle of nowhere with gators many times. I’ve had one that was over 15 feet long swim right up to and under a canoe I was in. I’ve stumbled upon mom gators and the babies she was protecting. I have never felt as threatened and in danger as I did last night. I have never heard a gator make that sound for that long. I was literally shaking when I got back in the truck. It is currently gator mating season. They get very territorial and very aggressive. Be careful out there and always run the hell away if you feel uncomfortable taking pictures in the wild.