Karen Marts had just arrived at Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and was making a video of white ibis chicks sitting on their nests with their parents. As she shot, an alligator crept below branches to her left. It had the ibises in its sights, too.
Some of the young birds were venturing out on the branches, observing their surroundings, but none seemed old enough to fly, Marts reported. Other juveniles, with fully developed wings and feathers, walked the edge of the ground in the island in the center of the refuge's Ibis Pond, which supports a rookery of wading birds.
A thrashing noise distracted Marts, and she looked to her left. That's when she saw an alligator rise out of the pond, onto its hind legs and thrust upward to snatch one of the ibis chicks from its branch.
"This is something you see only on National Geographic!" Marts, a frequent contributor to the Untamed Lowcountry blog, wrote in an email sharing her video with her birding friends.
The presence of alligators near bird rookeries is mostly beneficial to the birds. The reptiles keep away raccoons, opossums and other mammalian predators, which will clean a nest of its eggs before any chicks ever hatch. However, the alligators get a little something in return -- a chick that strays from its nest and into the water can become a gator's breakfast.
Or, in this case, the alligator won't wait for a misstep, but snatch its own food from the branch.