On the day that I saw my lifer Merlin at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive, I turned around from the Merlin to find a Pied-billed Grebe in distress. The poor grebe had a snake around its neck! I don’t know exactly how that started. Was the snake trying to kill the bird? Or did the bird attack the snake, and the snake was just defending itself? Either way, I found myself saying “Somebody help that poor bird!” Snakes make really bad necklaces…
The grebe swam about quickly, trying to pull the snake off. He twisted back and forth, trying to grab the snake with his beak…
Apparently violent shaking of the neck only makes the snake tighten his noose. :(
Finally the bird gripped the snake and started to unwrap it.
Yay! The bird seemed to be winning as he unraveled the snake.
The bird dove under the water at this point, and I stood watching, not wanting to leave until I saw the bird emerge from the water snake-free. I know grebes can stay under the water for a long time, and they can swim pretty good distances while they are under water. But after a few minutes, the bird still hadn’t come up! I saw a couple of splashes, but no bird. I was really sad.
Then I saw a bird emerge farther down. Undoubtedly it was my bird, and undoubtedly it was snake-free. The poor bird was stretching its neck repeatedly, shaking and flexing and generally showing relief in having full control of its neck again. Hooray!
The people on the wildlife drive crack me up. As I grinned at the bird’s good luck, someone drove by and asked me if I was photographing an alligator.
Nope, not exactly.
Want to learn more about nature photography at Lake Apopka?
Check out my Lake Apopka page with more information about the location, map, website, photography tips, etc. It is archived by date so you can see my images from previous visits. Maybe you'll be inspired for your own trip!
Planning a trip to Florida? Don't miss my Central Florida Bird Photography Locations reference guide!