Well, long story short, the heron was walking way up away from the water, which spooked the cats. I've never seen them with their feet on dry land! So I watched it walk about 10 feet, ruffling its feathers and walking really strangely. The bird was spooked too! So we thought maybe the pond log was back. And we kept seeing something in the water. It just didn't seem alligator-like to us, but we weren't sure. And then the heron walked into the marsh and neither of us could bear to turn away, thinking the poor thing was about to be eaten by the dinosaur in the water.
So that's basically why we were watching. At some point, I tore myself away to grab my camera, since the heron was in a place with a near-perfect reflection of itself shining back. By the time I got the camera, I missed that picture, but came close with another one:
I dig symmetry! So about the time I took that picture, I had two simultaneous problems: the batteries in the camera were dying, and the memory card was full. So I stopped taking pictures. And then the heron lunged into the water - I really thought the gator got it - and came back up with a fish. I was standing there with my camera and couldn't take a picture!
And then, maybe 2 minutes later, a snake bird popped out the water with one of those big fat catfish, but the catfish got away.
So I changed the batteries and deleted some old pictures, but by that time the heron had moved on down the shore to another patch of marsh. And that's when the weird lump in the reeds popped back up.
Can you see it above? The reason we thought it was a turtle or a frog at first is because there was only one lump sticking out of the water. Usually with an alligator, you'll see the eyes and the nose sticking up. Keep in mind that picture above was taken with my camera on the highest zoom. It's much more visible than to the naked eye. And it wasn't until I did some photo cropping this morning that I saw the tiny nostrils, barely visible above the surface:
I'm still not sure whether this itty bitty alligator was hunting the heron or spooked by it, but either way it made for some excitement out back! And all of a sudden I'm dreading the idea that at some point I'm going to see one of my birds as the prey instead of the predator. I'm also secretly hoping that I can take pictures of it. Hopefully that doesn't make me a bad person!