The Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, Florida has its very own gator-filled swamp. In spring that swamp is also home to as many as 600 pairs of nesting egrets, herons, wood storks and roseate spoonbills. The gators keep the birds and their nests safe from a host of predators but, there is a price to be paid.
Low Rent high Price
Birds of Many Feathers weave and dance and settle in to guard their fragile eggs. All these nests: of many shapes fastened to branches thick and thin high and low. Hidden in the tropical green of cypress. Sequestered in the cup-shaped pockets where palm fronds join their prehistoric trunks. In plain sight upon the topgallant of a great live oak where only the widest wings set sail, or touch down. The swamp below is a remnant, reduced to a vanishing point reptilian and dark. The canopy above is where the wealth resides, shimmering like the many-colored light of planets and stars – Birds among alligators, by the hundreds of pairs! Danger is the rent. When rent is due, there will be no partial payments made.
Soft soft silent s-curve of tail in sans serif lower case, only a ripple for a wake. Only eyes and nostrils show, no more remarked than a shelf of water-worn stones when water is low.
Drifts at the gate.
Waits… waits… waits…
Snowy Egret dips too careless and too close, wingtips clipping water. Better to thirst. Better heat than trip those golden feet to cool in the sulfurous spring where an ancient device lies ready to be sprung… All is undone.
Roseate Spoonbill on wings hued of sunrise, so confident in color and in form, the clapping bill a rounded gentleness, glides down to an untimely end. Jaws like vice grips, clamped in that unchanging Alligator grin.
Bobcat and Raccoon will not set foot here. Nor Climbing Possum, Creeping Snake. Every would-be robber of the nest fears the cut Alligator takes. Thus Great Egret finds repose here, Wood Stork and Spoonbill find retreat. Safe from the thieves they fear the most dear, while the Doorman only charges what he eats. Symbiosis by the bite dear, wing beat by wing beat
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