Welcome to Florida, we have overly friendly wildlife.

The first time wildlife encountered me was in my very own backyard.

I’ve been fascinated by the various lizards that roam around the place here.  Standing in the yard I spotted a rather common lizard.  Something scared it.

Might have been me, I have that effect on some people, and some wildlife.

Might not have been.

The lizard ran onto my shoe, then right up my leg.

And up the pant leg.

I’ve heard of ants in my pants but never a lizard on my lizard.

I’ve had posionous toads hop onto my foot while I was picking up after my dog.

I’ve had more Iguanas turn up in the Bougainvillias and Hibiscus in the yard than I care to count.

Nasty creatures, Iguanas.  No reason for them to be here at all.

Seventeen Ducks making more ducks on my front porch.

This was a much more gentle encounter.

A normal five in the evening Dog Walk.  It’s been really quite intensely hot.  90 to 95 in brilliant sun.

Walking around the block and heading toward home, a “something” fluttered around my head and landed on my friend’s arm.

A rather beautiful Butterfly.  Mostly black winged, some iridescent blue spots.

Basic Black.  Everyone looks better in basic black.

Being a butterfly, it was completely harmless, and it paid a rather long visit walking around my friends T-shirt, up one arm, down the other and hanging out.

As soon as it started it was over when the little creature went on its way.

I guess it wanted a bit of a rest.

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Meet Mothra, My Mystery Moth

I keep telling those folks Up North that Florida has weird wildlife.

Ball Pythons and other snakes in the Everglades.

Iguanas grazing in my backyard.

Those damn Muscovy Ducks all over the place.

This is much more benign.

I’ve grown accustomed to seeing large flocks of birds around town.  Green parrots shrieking at Dawn and Sunset call to flock.  Flocks of white Snowy Egrets hunting for grubs in the yards around here and sometimes standing on the roof of a car from time to time.

So when I see large things flapping around my front yard, I tend to only give them passing notice.

It rained for a couple days straight this week.  The first sunny day we have Zebra Mosquitoes that can carry you off.  The second one it’s the dance of the Dragonflies that dine on those evil creatures.  All the while it’s Zebra and Swallowtail Butterflies and my Monarch Butterflies dining on the flowers.

This was a bit of a shock.

Moths in my mind are wee little coin sized creatures.   They silently fly around eating things that they can get at but are never too numerous.  It isn’t a case of running for the hills, it’s more like, “Oh. There’s a Moth.”

I thought there was yet-another bird confused and fluttering on the front porch.

Nope.  I finally looked up from my Big Green Chair where I was practicing my Spanish and taking tests and I saw this total Unit of a Moth.

I mean huge.

As in the size of your hand.  Flip your hand over and look at the palm.  Then have your fingers touch each other at the outstretched flat tips.

Six inches, 15 CM of absolute moth.

I have never seen a beast like this.

I allowed its privacy while it could probably see me.

Buenos tardes, senor, como estas?

Good afternoon Mr Moth.

Or Mrs, I don’t know how to tell.

I did get curious, so next trip off my perch, I walked out front with the camera and did the tourist thing.

It visited me for a day and a half and one moment it was gone.  Flapped its bird sized wings and flew off into the Florida Sunset.

Sipping my Iced Tea.  “Weird freaky wildlife we’ve got here.  Most of it is introduced.  That’s a story for another day.”

Canada Geese and Inline Skates do not mix well

(All Pictures are from Wikipedia.org – hopefully I got the attributes correct!)

Once upon a time, there was a boy.

He lived in the fabled land of Philadelphia, PA.

Philadelphia skyline (2015)
By Mefman00 – modifications by Maps and stuff (Brian W. Schaller) – Wikimedia file – cropped bottom to make it a 3:1 ratio panorama for use in Philadelphia article infobox; also cropped a bit from top, left and right; increased contrast, CC0, Link

 

He grew up to become the Police Commissioner and later the Mayor of that fabled land and his word had a lot of weight.

He enjoyed driving through one of the most beautiful places in a major city, and the largest municipal park of any city, at least at that time.  Fairmount Park.

Fairmount Park stretched from the Art Museum and the Rocky Statue along the Schuylkill River and out to the City Line.  The actual green belt stretched well beyond the reach of the city for quite a long way.

As that former Mayor, Frank Rizzo, went through the park, he noted the wildlife and once famously commented “Someone feed those damn ducks”.

And the ducks were fed.

ParkingLotMotherCanadaGoose.jpg

By PumpkinSky – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

They weren’t ducks, they were Canada Geese.  Personally I can’t say I remember ever seeing any Damn Ducks there, just the geese as well as many other birds that would stop by.  Some lived there, others moved on as Philadelphia was in the middle of the Eastern Flyway.  You can always see some wildlife among the trees and grass in that park.

Schuylkill River in Fairmount Park..JPG

By Ngilmour3Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Over time, they built the park up to have more facilities.  The boathouses were improved, parking areas expanded, a grandstand added, and a trail that would stretch from Independence Hall to the Art Museum, then uninterrupted by traffic out to beyond Valley Forge.  It would be paved with black asphalt, and that was how I got involved.

You see a ribbon of “Black Ice” is a perfect place to inline skate.

Yes, to paraphrase a theme song to a tv show, This Is Bill, And He LOVES to Skate.  (apologies to Bam Margera).

Philadelphia Museum of Art 2005.jpg

By User:Rgordon6~commonswikiWikimedia file, CC0, Link

And skate I did.  The main “city” loop, from the Art Museum to Falls Bridge and back was 8.6 miles.  All “black ice”.  Smooth asphalt to roll on with 8 and then 10 wheels, mile after mile.

While eventually I outgrew that trail and explored the trail from the city, west past Valley Forge, and out to Oaks and the Perkiomen Creek, I did eventually log 21,000 miles on inline skates in the years from 1993 on.

Those geese were still there, doing what geese do.  Eating grubs, grass, and small critters they would catch.

Now Birds in general have a quirk.  They tend to flock together and scatter in fear.  The biological response for a bird is to lighten the load before they launch and then fly off to safety.

Yes, they poop where they stand.

Canada Geese are for the most part docile creatures, being as big as a watermelon, but they do tend to stand their ground.

Take a flock of geese and if you’re on skates, it is you that is going to stop, not them.

Unless you’re a 6’4″ 225 Pound skater cruising along at 16 mile per hour, 4 minute miles, and having questionable stopping ability.

Yes, add to all that I’m stubborn too.

“Move it you damn birds!” as I am braking to give them time to leave.

Sometimes it worked.

Other times, they got ornery.  Actually more often than not they tend to stand their ground and hiss.  Oh and they do charge you.  There are quite a few times when you are flying down the trails and there’s 10 pounds of grey, black, and white chasing after you.

Stopping does not always guarantee you aren’t going to get by either.  They may decide that those loud shorts you are wearing are ugly and you need to be told that.  Flapping wings, hissing, and lightening the load for a launch, they’d come after you.

Luckily they don’t tend to corner well and are fairly easy to duck.  Or Goose.  Or whatever is your preference.

At one point I realised I am bigger than they are and would spread my arms wide and start yelling “CLEAR THE TRAIL GOOSE I’M COMING THROUGH!”.

Or not.  They’d take their time as I’m doing a break check slowing down in case I end up wiping out on their load lightening move.

That happened a few times.

Arms out wide, the goose refused to yield as it just ducked (goosed?) down its head against its body and started flapping itself.

This one time in mind the goose started flapping around my legs that were now splayed out on some questionably wet pavement to tell me it wanted me to go.  I’m flapping arms at it to convince it to move on.

A Stale Mate.  Me and Those Damn Ducks.

Eventually the “ducks” cleared off and I got up and went on my way.

I picked up one thrown flight feather and stuck it in my trail bag/fanny pack and finished my 30 mile workout.

That feather rode quite a few miles in there after that.

So the moral of the story is that if Mayor Frank Rizzo wanted those Damn Ducks Fed, you will have to watch out for them on the trails.

The current day echo of that story is that there are quite a few Muscovy Ducks here in WIlton Manors.  A woman two blocks away insists on feeding them.  So they learned that they are probably safer walking lazy circles around the neighborhood and parking under cars and shrubbery and making other baby ducks than they would be in the waterways that they belong in.

That in turn feeds the Foxes, Raccoons, and Opossums that I have seen eating baby ducks here.  So if you feed the ducks, you’re really feeding the predators.

Predators good, ducks annoying.  At least what they do under my Jeep is.

Better the predation happens than my having to learn how to spatch cook a duck.

Hmmmmm…..

Did I ever tell you about the time I walked out onto my little front porch?  A pool table sized area of concrete with 17 ducks by count making more baby ducks?  All hissing at once?

Yeah, I run them off now.  I figure if I can’t go after Those Damn Ducks in Fairmount Park in Philly, I can convince them not to mate under my Jeep here in Florida.

After all, ducks mating are violent, but that is a story for another day.

In Florida, If Car > Iguana, and Buzzard > Iguana, then Buzzard = Car?

Welcome to Mutual of Florida Wild Kingdom where Native Species sometimes win out.

Once upon a time there was a pristine land where Puma roamed free and nary a hibiscus was found.

This was South Florida.

Then “we” moved in and changed things.

A few “swamp rats” of various kinds moved into the land that was dry enough to support us.

People.  We changed the place.

We have all put a heavy thumbprint on the land, no matter which group of people you are referring to.

Clearing the land to allow for homes of various ilk.  Then someone got the bright idea to drain the forests and the river of grass to create more land.

Sure, it worked but when the North emptied out into the place after the Second World War and the invention of practical air conditioning, we brought what we thought should be in this climate.

South Florida is an artificial landscape.

Those Palm Trees we plant everywhere don’t belong.  Nor do the Hibiscus, the Orange Groves, and the Bottle Brush Trees.

Most of this stuff comes from Asia and Australia.

We also brought our animals.

There are roving packs of dogs and cats, of course.  Large amounts of Razorback and other feral hogs living in the forests.  There are flocks of parrots that visit from time to time that chatter at me and mine while I am out working on the swimming pool that does not belong, either.

Someone got the foolish idea that having an Iguana as a pet would be great until they started escaping.

These green dinosaurs run all over the place eating up the plants that we brought with us like they’re candy.

You can’t share with an iguana, don’t even try it.  They won’t leave your hibiscus or your orchids in peace, if they can get to them.

Every so often one of these creatures meets up with a car.  They run at full speed across the streets in front of my house looking for choice bits of plants.

Until, Crunch.

Then you get to watch them as they move onto their next existence.

After they finish thrashing, they’ll become food for whatever animal chooses to visit.

In the case of the last one, it was a buzzard.  It had just about a six foot wing span when it landed.  Or rather I should say when they landed because they’re quite skittish.  Once one gets there, another tries to run it off so it can get to the choice pieces of Iguana before the other and they trade off.

Not a problem for me, I’m all for the Buzzards, after all they belong.  Green Iguanas do not belong in this ecosystem and anything that gets rid of them I’m all for that as well.

Even if it is a Ford or Goodyear and it ends up on my neighbor’s driveway.

Fascinating to watch.  If you have to watch a dinosaur get eaten, may as well be on your neighbor’s driveway!

I’d just rather not clean up after it all.

Florida Is No Place If You Hate Spiders

I’m up early.  Usually about early enough to get a good long dog walk in and feed both of us before dawn even struggles to send first light over the hedge.

Being tall, you should thank me.  It is a public service that I do.

What service would that be, you ask?

I clear spider webs from the walks and paths of this town.

Terrified of spiders?

I am not, in fact, generally I ignore them.  Their purpose is to eat the creatures that I do not care for like the mosquitoes and gnats.

Yes, this being the tropics, or tropics adjacent – depending on your definition, we do have mosquitoes.  Legions of the blasted creatures.  Evil blood sucking things.

This being the tropics here in South Florida, everything grows.   Fast.  Quick.  Assertively.

That sidewalk I depend on has palm fronds on it, every block, that I have to dodge.  You may not, but I most certainly do.

If the frond wasn’t there yesterday, it’s here today.  People don’t tend to clear walkways to seven feet or 2 and a half meters, or what ever measure your area thinks is traditionally appropriate.

Sometimes I may help that along, but it can be a lot of work trimming leaves.

That open area is where the spider web clearing comes along.

Sorry, Charlotte, but your web was in my way.  I’ll be sure to take a bit home with me in my hair or on my arms or clothes.  Thanks, but I really don’t need that.

Getting in to feed the dog, I brush myself down looking for hitchhikers and calling it good, I prepare for a later foray into the yard.

The 7:30AM yard inspection is just after sunrise by a bit.  As they say “Lather, Rinse, Repeat” and I am back outside trying to avoid bugs.

That has its own reward.  This is more human scaled agriculture, or rather my own human scaled.  I look over closely the plants I do want in the yard, remove those I don’t and sometimes spot something.

In this case, Bougainvillea.  It blooms almost all year around.  I can’t think of when it isn’t blooming.  If you get just the right angle, it makes for quite a nice display.

If you don’t just remember that those things will bite you with the spikes on the limbs.

I never work on a bougainvillea without a little blood loss.

Not from the spiders, but the spines.  Spiders are everywhere, even if you don’t see them in the flowers.

Go eat a mosquito, spider, I’ll leave you alone.

Frog in The Shutters

Once upon a time, there was a house.

The house had some truly awful windows.

They leaked air when the wind blew.  They leaked water when it rained.  They were more complex than necessary.  In an air conditioned house, they were expensive.  In winter, it was colder than necessary.

They had to go.

They did go, but the problem was that in that weird construction, and all that complexity, there was a guest sheltering there at night.  My tree frogs.

When the windows were gone, they were evicted.

I hoped that they would come back, but they never did.

Tree frogs are gentle and harmless.  They will eat bugs and nasty bite-y creatures that you don’t want living close to you.  These frogs are mainly quiet, and just hide near you asking nothing but a hiding place to sleep.

There was a single return the other day for two separate nights.

A much smaller tree frog than the previous ones perched itself in the shutter of my front bedroom.

It didn’t mind us, we didn’t mind it.  Of course getting a picture was a requirement.

We live much closer to wildlife here than we did up north, and that is quite fine.  I could do without the iguanas jumping into my swimming pool at dawn, and the ducks are a major nuisance these days.  If I ever have to mop duck droppings that were tracked into the house again, it will be too soon.  It’s been a while since a gecko decided to try to hunt inside, and the patented Gecko Safe Removal Tool is going dusty.

But as for the frogs, well they don’t come by that often.

My Noisy Neighbor

The other day, I had a weird moment.

Walked out into the yard, and there was a bird.

Grey, black and white.  Perched in my Bougainvillea arbor.

It was singing.  Well if you could call that singing.  It was making a row.

For the family here in Los Estados Unidos, that means it was bloody loud.

It was also my Snow White moment.  It stayed there long enough for me to get quite close and quite a few pictures of it.  The whole while it was there, it was making noise.   Loud enough to echo off the shed and some of the other buildings around us.

As I walked around my yard and the pool, I was being serenaded by my little friend.  Loudly.

Of course me, being who I am, I would chatter back.  Loudly.

“Hey Bird!  Noisy Bird!”

BRAKKK FWEEP BEE BEE BEE BEE!

Rack was out with me, he just cocked his head to one side.  Then he cocked his leg to another and added some uric acid to my green onions.  In a pot.

“Rack, don’t water my pots!”

More head tilts as a Monarch butterfly dive bombs his head.

There was another butterfly strobing along the hedges.  Flashing yellow pinstripes on a black suit, this second butterfly was hovering around me, and what was left of the Night Blooming Jasmine hedge that is hedge in name only.

BEE BEE BEE BEE!

“What’s up NoisyBurd?”

More indiscriminate loud chatter from my feathered friend.

“Man you are LOUD today”

BEE BEE BEE BEE!

At this point the butterflies have dispersed, Rack was hovering around me.  He may have zero hunting ability, and zero prey drive, but he does know how to herd ME.

Looking down at my feet I saw two brown jeweled eyes set in black fur.  Rack wanted back in the house.

I get in and I say Goodbye from my shouty little bird friend.

I’m told that my neighbors are also hearing my bird.  It’s keeping them up.  Ok, so it’s March.  Spring Time.  Male Birds are feeling Testosterone from their testicles that have grown to allow the next generation to be produced, what did you expect, Silence?

This has been going on for the next couple days.  More chatter.  Every morning, he’s parked himself on top of the bougainvillea.

Thankfully I haven’t discovered a nest in my yard.  My Neighbor Joe is hoping he doesn’t discover one there.  His windows aren’t Hurricane Impact Glass.  They let sound and breezes in.  Maybe he’ll take our suggestion that he get those done before the next storm season.

Meanwhile I’m wishing my feathered friend to pay him a visit next door.  He has been at 3 in the morning in full voice.

I’ll keep my hearing protection handy for the next couple weeks.  I don’t hear him, but Joe does.