Posted by Lesley on March 14, 2012
I see the woodpeckers, and I definitely hear the woodpeckers, but it’s rare I capture a picture. They’re like shy children that hide behind their mothers’ legs. Every time I get the camera in place, the woodpecker scoots behind whatever tree or telephone pole it’s pecking. But today a Downey woodpecker let me snap away, and since I’m not a big birder, it was a new spotting to me.
Initially I thought it was a baby Red-bellied woodpecker. They visit the garden fairly regularly and have similarly patterned wings, but something about its head wasn’t right. There was no red patch on its crown, and there were dominant black and white stripes on its face and head. Turns out the bird was a female Downey woodpecker. Downeys are much smaller than the average woodpecker and also one of the most common, which is probably why she was so tolerant of my interest.
Posted by Lesley on March 11, 2012
Lizards are as common in my Florida garden as ants. During my early days as a Floridian, I found their constant presence unnerving. In a reflex, I threw one across a room on an iron because it startled me. My how things change, now I find myself enjoying their company. This one especially caught my eye today. I held the camera on it so long my arms started to hurt, but my day could not go on without a picture of that dewlap!
It’s brilliant; this lizard definitely has game. The dewlap, what that bright orange flare is called, attracts female mates. Since I’m a female without scales, it’s more likely this stud was flexing his dewlap like muscles to deter me. The dewlap serves a dual-purpose to attract mates and ward off predators.
If I’m saying dewlap a lot, it’s because up until a few hours ago I was saying to John, “What’s that thing called?” He usually knows the answer to weird questions like that but not this time, and the Google gods were a little wishy-washy. There was frill, dewlap and the selections beginning with throat–throat fan, throat flap or throat sack–to choose from. With the throat options too obvious and frill pertaining mostly to appendages that come from the back of the neck instead of the throat, dewlap was my word. And it’s by far the most fun to say…doo-lap, dooo-lap, doooo-lap.
I always thought brown anoles were light brown with a Native American-looking patterned band running down their back, but the dark brown, speckled lizard I spotted today is also a brown anole. After looking at pictures of fence, scrub and all sorts of other lizards, every picture that matched was labeled brown anole. Then I found a research study done by Patrick Ellsworth, a PhD student at the University of Miami, that confirmed the variety amongst the family, “The only consistent characteristics is that they are some shade of brown and their dewlap is orange with a yellow border.” A tad disappointing as I thought it could’ve been a new visitor to the garden.
Posted by Lesley on March 9, 2012
Although John and Luke cuddling is adorable, it’s time to add a new blog post. On really busy weeks, that sounds easier than it is. Every time I get down to blogging or gardening this week, I’m interrupted…TGIF. In five minutes or less, this is what you missed…
Ella won Student of the Month and got to eat lunch with her principal.
Doodlebop came for a visit. We planted morning glories and nasturtiums. No blogging about it because when he left, the three of us all took naps!
The amaryllis have started to resurface.
And here's the stupid snake that keeps running me out of my own garden!
Posted by Lesley on February 19, 2012
It slithered in, and I ran out. Snakes are my least favorite part of gardening. Not because they’re not good to have around, snakes eat other unsavory garden visitors like rodents and insects, but because they creep me out. They slither in and out of plants, trellises, and trees so quiet and undetected that it’s unnerving to have them lurking in my happy place.
I should have never watched The Witches of Eastwick as a kid. The image of Cher waking up in a bed of snakes has never left me. A run in like this used to take me out of the garden for a day if not a week, but my sister gave me a good tip: look to the lizards. They’re everywhere in Florida but not when there’s a snake around.
The lizards have returned, and a brown anole has never looked so handsome! Only a couple more hours of daylight; break time’s over.
Posted by Lesley on December 3, 2011
Since I just posted a photo of a baby raccoon, I just had to post this photo of a baby…It was an adorable treat delivered to my inbox courtesy of my sister-in-law. This is her three month-old baby boy’s hand next to a raccoon track, and only her husband and God know where they were walking to come across that track. Tie a cape around her neck, and she is
Adventure Girl Adventure Mom now. But when she was still Adventure Girl, she and her husband macheted their way through the jungles of Thailand for fun. Thank God there are different types of people in the world because if I am ever macheteing my way through a jungle, my plane went down. They had a guide and still managed to trek so far into the thicket that they accidentally hiked into another country!
But back to the photo, raccoons and babies have strangely similar tracks – size and shape. Could it have been a baby crawling around my pineapple? I do see them around the neighborhood.
Posted by Lesley on November 25, 2011
…and it didn’t attack me. It was just taking a nap in a tree.I’ve never been so happy to see a raccoon before. This little baby, or kit in raccoon terms, was absolutely adorable and not at all abnormal. Raccoons are known to nap in trees during the day, and it’s also common for a mother to forage for extra food during the day.
I remember seeing a raccoon skulking along the fence once while gardening; it scared the hell out of me. With my head practically inside a croton weeding underneath it, it was startling to turn around and see a raccoon right behind me about 20 feet away. I immediately went running into the house with the frantic thought of RABIES racing through my head.
But thinking back on it after reading this line from the University of Texas Environmental Health & Safety’s website, “If a nocturnal animal is out during the day and is sick you will know it,” I know that raccoon was fine. The site goes on to say, “The symptoms when an animal is sick or injured can vary, but regardless it’s fairly obvious that something is wrong.” The raccoon that scared me wasn’t foaming at the mouth; it wasn’t trying to approach me; it wasn’t acting crazy in any way. It was actually acting quite normal trying to sneak behind me undetected. I was the one acting rabid running for the door.
I’m not suggesting you try to feed them as if they are ducks by a pond, but day-foraging raccoons have an unnecessarily bad name. There’s no reason to automatically assume they are all rabid…and look how cute!
Posted by Lesley on November 22, 2011
Posted by Lesley on November 12, 2011
- Keep your head erect when riding the Gwazi.
- Splurge on the nectar.
“Keep your head erect,” something I read while strapped into the front seat of a wooden roller coaster that boasts 100 mph speed. I was unaware of that fact at the time and had even gone so far as to comment to my brother how bored the people returning looked compared to the Montu riders from earlier, so I was completely puzzled by the seemingly pedestrian instruction. How else would I keep my head?
Well, let me tell you that as my head flipped back like an unhinged Pez dispenser, those four words became all too clear. I spent the rest of the ride with my shoulders and neck stacked like a linebacker ready for impact. I was sure my souvenir from the day would be whiplash, but so far so good. I can turn left, right, up, and down. Life is good.
And it can be made even better with a shot of nectar in the Bird Garden…although it should be noted that it probably costs less to get drunk. But for five dollars a pop, you can have birds lining up to your arm like drunks to a bar which is pretty cool… …and sometimes a little scary!And here’s a money-saving tip. The birds won’t drink half that nectar, so look around for people leaving the garden. The kids were given nectar while I was outside buying it, and we also gave ours away when we left.
Posted by Lesley on September 7, 2011
Hallelujah, the weather has cooled down just enough to take a walk mid-day without risking heat stroke. To celebrate, Luke and I spent the lunch-hour strolling Arlington Park. Although the sun is now bearable, my favorite section of the park is still on the west side where the tall trees and kudzu almost block it out entirely. Kudzu is an invasive species from Asia that all gardeners should fear, but in this environment, it’s hard not to admire. Arches, forts, and statues form as the kudzu crawls and clings to everything in sight. The vines rise into columns and cascade down like waterfalls. In the few small patches where the sun meets the ground, it has to drill through the thick like a spotlight.
And as if the mini-forest wasn’t feeling enchanted enough, a bright yellow bird I’ve never seen before hopped across the path. It took me a while to identify, but it’s definitely a hooded warbler. The yellow eye mask is unmistakable.
Warblers are way too quick for me. The rest of my photos are blurs. It was nice of the fish to be so cooperative.
Posted by Lesley on August 7, 2011
I give up. I try to live my life as close to chemically-free as possible, but bugs are my limit. I’ll live with a baby lizard, but ants, you win. I’d rather drop the bomb than watch another ant walk across my egg yolk. I tell you that disgusting truth because I’m confident in my cleanliness. My counters are clean, but still I couldn’t crack an egg on the edge. That was it; we sprayed inside and out, threw three bombs in the attic and got the hell outta here. We headed up to my sister’s for the night to pretend we were on vacation while they’re on their real vacation. We were greeted with a message from Ella…
Ella, don’t worry; we came prepared with a fresh bone…
…and had a great time swimming, grilling, walking, and lounging…thanks!
There was some birdwatching too. But just as I was thinking what a nice post the birds would make, I realized what they were – vultures! Eeeeew, they’re so creepy, and they were there eating dead fish out of the pond. Probably the result of too much fertilizer, sometimes you just can’t escape the chemicals.