Lizard on a Hot Tin Roof

Up North in the Big Cities, if you find any wildlife indoors, you call an exterminator.

I don’t mean pets, or your weird relatives, but “wildlife”.

Non domesticated animals or insects.

Here, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about that.

When I moved to South Florida, I remember being told a few “important things”. 

Always bang your shoes out on the ground.
Check your bed for spiders.
Don’t go swimming in a lake, there are gators in the water.

Ok, the Gator thing?  Yeah I believe it.  I was at a park in Dania Beach once and had to leave a dock because I saw a gator approaching.  I think it wanted to turn Lettie into its next meal.  She didn’t know what to make of it and was getting agitated.

Trust in Dog, I got out of there.

But the shoes thing?  Nah.  At least not in my house. They were trying to throw a fear into me about scorpions.

Nine years later, I have seen exactly one scorpion and that was living outdoors where it belongs.

Now mind you, wildlife does get in.  We have killed more mosquitoes here than I care to count.  We’ve also got one of those cool tennis racket looking dealies that you press a button and wave through the air.  You see a flash and hear a “SNICK!” and the nasty girl is vaporized.

They’re always female if they’re trying to bite you.  Always.

Spiders?  Not if you make your bed.  Plus, like Constance says, the bed just LOOKS better if it is properly made.  You could bounce a quarter off that blanket!

On the other hand, there are my Lizards.  Typically they are Cuban Browns that get in, but there are also the pink Geckos that end up being seen right around dusk.

The Geckos get hungry and come out looking for food.

Hey, Geckos!  You’re slacking.  Go after the mosquitoes and I’ll even set up a habitat for you!

Don’t laugh, there’s a story I was told about people in New York City keeping lizards in the house like you and I do with dogs.  They run around and eat cockroaches.

If I see cockroaches, we call and have the house tented.  *shudder*.

But the Cuban Browns are everywhere keeping a watch over you.

I have never found them in my shoes, but they do get in the house.

For some reason people fear them.  I’m deeply entertained by them, and I think they know it.

Yes, I am the Lizard Whisperer.  Or something like that.

But tapping your shoe on the ground before you put it on?  Only if it was left in the closet too long.  Then you might have to worry about those spiders making a web in them.

Oh, in that case, they’re most likely dead.  After all, a web in your Size 11 Boot won’t catch many bugs to eat behind a closed door, will it?

They can’t bite you, although if  you find an ornery one they will try.  They just don’t have any teeth.  Just like Grandma, all they can do is gum their food.  Girls would catch them and get them to bite their earlobes to wear lizards as earrings.

I guess they tickled.  Silly girls.

Lizards in the Bougainvillea

Every morning, after breakfast, it’s time for a wander out back.  I am never alone.  Usually by that time, Rack the SuperDog (TM) is ready for his final excursion of the morning.  He will have a full day of resting, napping, and generally watching me do my own thing until Lunch time when he tries for a morsel or two as a snack.

He usually gets some, I’m a soft touch.

Or so I have been told.

We will generally inspect the area.  He has his perimeter search and if there aren’t any dreaded trash trucks in the neighborhood, he may even decide that he wants to romp a bit.

If not, I entertain myself with what goes on in the yard.  There are always gardening chores to look into.  The cutting pots must be watered.  Orchids will have to be looked after.  The Staghorn ferns probably have had their Spanish Moss tossed out of them and need to be picked up and set right. 

Generally it’s a Quiet Before The Storm time of day.  The neighbors aren’t usually rattling around, that’s my job.  I’m the one up at stupid hours, so early that even Oscar the parrot goes back to sleep when I settle in.  Going outside is a chance to think about what needs to be done, and set out a plan for the day.

All the while I am being watched.

My friends that live back there, the lizards, watch over me.  Sometimes they’re watching to avoid, other times they’re actively looking for my attention.  Completely harmless, quite beneficial, and normally entertaining. 

I honestly think that I live in their house and they graciously allow me to remain here, at times.

But there they will be at that hour, recharging their solar batteries.  You would think that they are easy pickings out in the open like that, but I have never seen them molested.  I guess a creature smaller than your finger wouldn’t be worth the chase to a larger bird.

They will hang there eating the ants off my palm tree that grew too close to the house.  The tree itself is on borrowed time since it’s a hazard in a hurricane, but for now it will remain.  Its replacement was planted in the island in front of the house a year ago and is growing quite well, but this tree with the moss on the North Side will not remain in the long run.

Meanwhile, it provides an environment for my little Cuban Brown friends to hang upside down and dine and pose for the paparazzi that live there with them among the flowers.

As long as I don’t get too close, I may even be able to enjoy a little time with them as well.  Even if this one leaves, there will be another one to take its place.  Too good a spot to pass up.

Orchid and Lizard

Late one afternoon, I took Rack, my faithful McNab superdog, out to the backyard for his pre-walk visit to the wormhole.

He went about his business.  Doing a perimeter search around the yard is important work for Rack. 

We did our dance.  My clapping hands peppering the yard with sounds of joy as Rack rounded the palm tree and over the spa, seemingly hovering in mid-air as he glided over top of it, long way around.

Then he disappeared to the other dimension where he keeps his alternate superdog family in that other galaxy on the other side of the wormhole.

The yard was silent, or as silent as South Florida ever gets.  The FEC doing an evening run on the tracks a mile off in the distance moaning as they approached then passed. 

The Neighbor’s puttering in their garden getting ready for an oncoming birthday party.  Sawing and paint testing, the air was perfumed with pine bark mulch.

Chattering a yard over with someone discussing The Farm’s Papayas and whether they were ready to be served on the table.  Fresh Papaya is a wonderful thing and if it were only one foot closer, some would be on my table as well.  None of that store bought stuff, this grows on a tree on our property line, just beyond the fence.

I settled on inspecting the irrigation lines.  The drip feeds need attention constantly.  Every single day one or another gets clogged as they dribble life giving rusty ground water into waiting roots.

Getting back to the orchid chain, I notice I am being watched.  Rack was still in his alternate universe.  This was a much smaller creature.  Descended from Dinosaurs, I spotted it.  A friendly Lizard.  Hiding in the shade under the leaf of my Phaleonopsis Orchid, I was being judged.  Threat Assessment.

I reached into my pocket, grabbed my camera, and got a picture.

The little blaggard moved.

I reset myself, took another picture.

The little rapscallion moved again.

“Annoying little creature, do sit still! I need to finish what I am on to.”

It didn’t care but I did get what I needed and let it on its own little way.  Rack had come back through the wormhole, sliding into the backyard at warp speed.  Gliding to a stop, feet widely spread out, he lay on the ground as if to say “Play! Now!  Resistance is futile”.

Lizard, Guardian of the Rescue Pot

I went a bit nutty in the yard, but I didn’t realize I was creating a habitat for lost dinosaurs.

The original use of the pots was to put what a snowbird thinks is appropriate for Florida.


Lets see… the Lemons all died, the Orange got replanted in the front yard and is moping along.

The Banana tree is still there but it’s so pot bound that the pot will split any day.  If it doesn’t I may help it to.

(Did I say that in my outside voice?)

My Mango tree is happy, although it’s a bit pot bound and in a stiff breeze it will topple over.  Since the winds come off the ocean rather steadily here, that’s at least a twice weekly occurrence.

The Hibiscus likes the pots too much and overgrows everything.

I ended up pulling out all the dead plants and ended up with three pots.  I put milkweed in one for my pet Monarch Butterflies who eat them down to a stick.

The other two are my Rescue Pots.  Lisa’s Pentas are in one, the other have a collection of cuttings.  Darwinian gardening rules states that what survives will get planted.

The pentas haven’t stopped blooming.

The ruellias that I put in there in a clump are half-and-half alive.  Who knows about them.

They both have at least a bit of Podocarpus, Japanese Yew to the rest of us.

One is thick with it.  I figure some of it may indeed root.

I didn’t count on them becoming wildlife reserves on a small scale.

Every time I go out there, my friendly lizards spot me.  They don’t tend to run off, although there is a story with that.

Last weekend, I had to repot my Orchids.  Four pots, three of which had gotten too weak to survive.  Some were encrusted with mold and lichen, others with ferns.  It was hard to know where the orchids actually were.  One had no potting bark in them, and when I reached up to grab it, the pot fell apart in my hands.

They’re basically popsicle sticks held together with wire in a square.

Two of them got a bed of Spanish Moss to hold the bark in and got rehung on the drip feed irrigation lines.

That third one.  I was walking back to the bar to repot my last one.  As I walk past the trees, I am pulling things out of them that didn’t belong.  It was a cool morning, me flicking odd pieces of bark out at the pot chain, and I grab what I thought was a stick.

It wasn’t.  It was a lizard’s tail.  I pulled on it and out came a lizard from between the slats of the pot.  It didn’t release its tail, but in shock, I did.  Since the concrete was warm, it trotted away quickly.

The things you find when you’re out working in the yard!

So do think of the Lizards when you’re out there.  They hide everywhere!

A Friendly Lizard

The other day when I wandered out of the house, I had no real agenda.  Bring the camera, be creative, have fun with it, and see what you find.

What happened was that things found me.

I walked into the little park near the house with Rack.  He walked deep into the cul-de-sac of a walkway and right up to the stone plinth that sits there. 

On the plinth there is a small piece of art.  A green copper butterfly that is held up on a shaft of what looks like wrought iron.  Some fool tried to remove it when the piece was installed and got frustrated.  In trying to remove it, the shaft was bent to an arc of about 90 degrees.  Luckily it was repairable, which is something I’d wager you can’t do to that ne’er do well’s karma.

I did notice that Rack was pointing out something on the plinth that wasn’t normally there.   A Cuban Brown Lizard.

I am amused by these creatures.  Usually I’ll look at them and they will dart off into a hiding place with me chanting the mantra of “Run! Gecko, Run”, even though they aren’t actually geckos.  They’re really quite shy.  Their reptile brain sees a large human coming at them and fearfully thinks that it’s time to go. 

In this case, the little creature was as interested in us as we were of it which accounted for the novelty of the situation.

I was able to use the camera and zoom into the little being’s personal space and fire off quite a few shots.  I fully expected it to move off somewhere, but it just insisted that I do what I needed and try my best to record this encounter.

The plinth having that rough finish that we see around here frequently, has aged well.  The pits of the concrete were collecting tiny micro biomes for creatures to colonize.  The mildew that formed in them showed in the black accents on the North side of the craters, just like the moss will prefer the North side of a tree. 

Having gotten my last picture of the series, my little friend used one of those craters to have a drink of some collected dew that remained after the morning sunrise.  His reptilian brain not registering fear, he stayed put while I went on my way, leaving the encounter and the park behind.

Herding Dinosaurs or Just Curly Tailed Lizards

I step from the front door and see them.

They are new arrivals, crossing over one of the many bridges onto the Island City from neighboring towns.  Coming here within the last two years, they have pushed many of the other smaller lizards away.

More assertive, they don’t tend to scramble away as fast as the Cuban Brown lizards, these are the Curly Tailed Lizards.

When the sun is up, they’ll come out to bask on the driveway.  It’s black, or at least it was in years gone by, more like a faded to charcoal grey. 

I can step a few feet from the door and they begin to pay close attention.

Finally one of them gets startled and begins to run.  I am herding dinosaurs again.  They run off the pavement in formation.  Almost always running to the South, almost always in the same formation, running away to the grass and cover.

I lift one of the tiles near my side garden and there is one of them that I had herded before.  It thinks it owns the place, even if I do pay my half of the mortgage.  In a flash it is running to the nearby fence and the security of the neighbor’s yard.

Every so often one of them is a bit more bold than the rest.   It will stand there, daring you to come closer.  It is as if it thinks it can scare 225 pounds of Moose away with its mighty jaw. 

You are four inches long, more if you ever straighten that tail out, when you pay rent, you can decide where I go.

It tries to stare me down.

I reach into my pocket for the camera and squat lower. 

The lizard is doing nothing.  No pushups as if to say I am the buffest reptile of them all so fear my mighty tail!

I fire off a second picture. 

Not even a tail wag. 

We’re both bored of the encounter at the same time.  I do not speak Lizardeze well, and it is afraid of my mighty size 11 shoe.

It walks slowly off into the distance, and I head on my way.  Encounter has ended, herding will be left to the future.

Don’t Threaten Me or I Will Flash My Dewlap At You!

I can’t say that these creatures were “here first”.  Technically they were introduced and naturalized and pushed out some other lizards that were here before them.  It’s a shame for those other lizards, but it is par for the course here in Overcast South Florida.

I’ve heard they are now being pushed out by the Curly Tails.  Curly Tailed Lizards which are twice as long and twice as thick and four times as assertive.

The Cuban Browns are entertaining to me.  Completely harmless, so much so that children would catch them and let them bite their earlobes to have Lizard Earrings for the few seconds that the scared creatures would hold on.

There you go little girl, have a chomp from my mighty toothless mouth as I wiggle my feet and flash my dewlap at you!  I am the fearless descendent of the great Dinosaurs and you shall respect me!

Not so much for my friend here.  I did my daily run around the backyard looking at my almost dead lemon tree in the pot line and pulling weeds from the mango tree.  Taking time to shamefully look at the banana tree that is so pot bound that the next time it falls over the pot may burst in relief and the tree will walk the two steps to the East saying “I’m Free! I can taste the sweet soil again after these horrible people kept me in prison!”.

To which the Mango tree says “Try being me!  I’m over six foot tall and I fall over every time a shower comes through like a child’s toy!”.

We really do have to decide to create a small garden for these things.  Pots don’t work.  You never get enough fruit, even though I was getting enough lemons for a while to make homemade lemon curd from them.  I’d have a chicken in the yard too if it weren’t for that they’re noisy and I’d get yelled at by code enforcement for having a farm in myback yard in the city!

Fresh Eggs anyone?  Maybe I need to move to Key West for that?  Conchs have all the fun!

Walking out into the yard is an experience.  You never know what you will scare off that is reptilian.  Most of what is back there is completely harmless, even the black racer snakes that keep the rodents away.  Live in harmony with nature and you will be better off for it. 

Stepping onto the Lanai, I have to look.   Rack generally will follow me out the door then go off and sniff the air.  If there is a storm within 10 miles, he’ll hear it and try to herd me back inside.  I’m too deaf or just plain human to hear those rumbles that are off shore between us and the Bahamas.  But he does and doesn’t like them at all.

At the right time of day, the lizards are on the pool deck catching the morning sun.  Cold blooded creatures need to warm up just like that cup of tea you have.  They’ll run away in great herds of lizards like Raptors in a movie after prey.  More likely they’re just off to the grass so they don’t get trodden on by great size 11 sneakers.

Having inspected the pot line, the irrigation, and considering where to put the Hibiscus that is in the pot that now has gone taller than I am by a few inches with that one red flower at the top which will wilt by tomorrow morning, I return to my friend the brown lizard.   It hasn’t moved.  It’s still watching me.

Goodbye Lizard.  Catch some mosquitoes while you are there.  There are plenty for you.