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The Gar Fish

Gar Fish likely get their name for the Old English word gar, meaning “spear,” and one look will tell you why. Their elongated bodies and jaws are reminiscent of arrows, and are quite a sight to be seen darting through the water while hunting in the shallow and weedy areas of rivers and creeks, often congregating in small groups. Today they can be found in fresh, brackish, and occasionally marine, waters of eastern North America. But the water isn’t the only place you’ll see these remarkable fish. Gar have vascularised swim bladders which can function as lungs, and thus some gars can surface periodically to take a gulp of air, doing so more frequently in stagnant or warm water when the concentration of oxygen in the water is low.  You may also see gar surface in fast moving rapids.  Such adaptations have helped gar remain viable since the Mesozoic period, living through conditions that would kill most other fish.

Cedar Wax Wing

A far more socialable bird than the Red Shouldered Hawk, the Cedar waxwing is a silky, shiny collection of brown, gray, and lemon-yellow, accented with a subdued crest, rakish black mask, and brilliant-red wax droplets on the wing feathers. It is a medium-sized, sleek bird with a large head, short neck, and wide bill. Their wings are broad and pointed and their tail is fairly short and square-tipped.

You are likely to see Cedar Waxwings year-round, but in the fall you might see them by the hundreds, filling the air with high, thin, irregular “sreee” notes. They nest late usually between June and September, so young can feed on emerging berries. And you might find such nests in backyards, parks, and open woodlands.


Saved from the brink of manmade extinction, the American alligator now thrives in its native habitat: the swamps and wetlands of the southeastern United States. State and federal protections, habitat preservation efforts, and reduced demand for alligator products have improved the species' wild population to more than one million and growing today. The species is likely more than 150 million years old, managing to avoid natural extinction 65 million years ago when their prehistoric contemporaries, the dinosaurs, died off.

Heavy and ungainly out of water, these reptiles are supremely well adapted swimmers. Males average 10 to 15 feet in length and can weigh 1,000 pounds. Females grow to a maximum of about 9.8 feet. Adult alligators are apex predators critical to the biodiversity of their habitat. They feed mainly on fish, turtles, snakes, and small mammals. However, they are opportunists, and a hungry gator will eat just about anything, including carrion, pets and, in rare instances, humans.

Red Shouldered Hawk

It will be hard to take your eyes off the beautiful shoreline while paddling in our waters, but do so and you will not be sorry. For soaring overhead are the colorful Red Shouldered Hawks. If you spot one you will see the dark-and-white checkered wings and warm reddish barring across the breast. Their tails are black with narrow white bands, and the wingtips show narrow, pale crescents while in flight.

These medium-sized hunters soar over forests or perch on tree branches while looking for small mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. While flying these hawks will often glide or soar with their wingtips pushed slightly forward, imparting a distinctive, “reaching” posture. If you do not see the Red Shoulder Hawk you might still hear one, as they have a distinctive whistle described as “kee-rah.”

For more information on all the flora and fauna you might see and hear on our waters, please visit the following websites: