The Black-bellied Whistling Duck (BBWD) above was the designated sentinel of the day, keeping a close watch over the 15 or more fluffy, black and yellow ducklings swimming about nearby with their ‘guardians’.It had been raining all day, and the worst of a severe thunderstorm had just passed. We surmised later that it may have been a precursor to Hurricane Florence, which was then brewing in the Caribbean and heading toward the southeast U.S.
The Black-bellied Whistling ducklings are barely perceptible in the above video, as they were at quite a distance from the trail. Watched over by caregivers, they were scooting about very close to the marshy vegetation, where they could flee in a hurry in case of danger.
This sign above, typical of the sort of cautionary signs we see everywhere in Florida wetlands and marshy areas, was undoubtedly meant for humans, in every season. But Black-bellied Whistling Duck parents would do well to heed the warning, too. We spotted lots of ‘low-lying’, well camouflaged ‘gators lurking nearby. The very protective American Alligator moms are also watching over their own nests and hatchlings at this time of year. Some research maintains that there is “no real evidence that alligators are an important predator” of the Whistling Ducks. However, I trust this reminder from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission:
“Alligators are opportunistic feeders. Their diets include prey species that are abundant and easily accessible. . . . Adult alligators eat rough fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.”
In other words, when asked, “What do Alligators eat?”, the most accurate response is probably, “Whatever they want!!”