Reptile Rendezvous: Wildlife Wednesday, April 2020

I suspect my garden is a meeting place for reptiles, and has been, well, since the beginning of the garden.  My constant garden companions are the Green AnolesAnolis carolinensis.  They’re everywhere:  slinking from behind the decorative shutters of my home windows, sidling up the trunks of trees, scurrying  through the undergrowth of the garden.  Sometimes, they come into the house.  Last week, my husband came from the kitchen to where I was in the back of the house, an anole firmly clamped on his finger.  He’d seen it in the kitchen, attempted to corral the lizard, which only encouraged it to dash under the pantry door.  Once in the pantry, the lizard’s options were limited and the intrepid lizard hunter cornered and captured the misplaced green thing. Mr. Anole clamped down on the hub’s finger hanging on with all its might.  Husband showed me his prize, we both had a giggle, then he exited the house to return the rogue reptile to the garden.  I didn’t have the presence of mind to catch a photo of the finger-with-lizard-attached, but it was a quite a sight.  The anole didn’t hurt the hub (nor, the other way around) as its little teeth are…really little and can’t penetrate human skin.  But if you’re a small insect (also known as food), those teeth will inflict some damage.

There are plenty of other reptiles in the garden, as well.  The season of the noisy,  amorous American ToadBufo americanus, has arrived.  Added to the calming sound of the pond waterfall, are now the guttural–and loud!–croaks of these fellas, also in the pond. Looking for feminine toad company, the warty dudes sing mostly after dark, until about midnight.  I like their serenades but wish they’d dial it down, just a bit.  There are little tree frogs, too, that I’ve never seen, but hear each spring and summer, starting now and continuing through July.  Chirp, chirp, chirp go these little frogs, but fall mute as I approach where they sit in the dark, hidden from my eyes.

Recently, the Blue Jays alerted their avian friends (and consequently, the gardener) to this chap:

He/she is a Rat Snake, Elaphe obsoleta lindheimeri, probably the same adult that I saw briefly last summer.  It’s a little hard to tell from the photo, but this slinky, slithery beauty is about four feet long.  It was lounging on the ground, stretched out along the base of my back fence which borders a neighbor’s property.

The neighbor was working in his back garden, so I peeked over the fence to let him know about the snake–he’s also a wildlife appreciator.  He grabbed a step-stool, peered over the fence and was thrilled to see the gorgeous snake.  We chatted for a bit, then I went indoors.  A little later, he emailed me to say that the snake had scaled (pun intended!) the 6 foot wooden fence and had plopped over onto their property.  Their sweet dog, Tula, was too interested in the snake, so he gently urged the snake to go under an attached fence, to lounge in his dog-free next door neighbor’s back yard.  He contacted the neighbor so that if she saw the snake, she wouldn’t freak out; he assured her that the rat snake isn’t harmful to humans.

Like most snakes, rat snakes are shy and avoid contact with humans.   They eat rats and mice (Yay!), but also birds, bird eggs, and other delectables smaller than themselves.  I’m not thrilled about the bird/baby bird meals, but to have a rat snake in the garden is a gift and confirmation of a healthy ecosystem.  

 

For the first time EVER in my garden, I observed a Texas Spiny LizardSceloporus olivaceus.

Green Anoles are common in my garden, but never-ever have I seen a Texas Spiny Lizard in my outdoor space.  I saw it crawling up the fence separating our back garden from my SIL’s garden.   I used the camera’s zoom feature as I couldn’t get too near this new garden buddy, as it was intent upon skedaddling as I moved in for closer shot.

When I worked at Zilker Botanical Garden, I regularly saw Texas Spiny Lizards; they were my garden companions in that place, much like the Green Anoles are in my home garden.   Like the Anoles, the Spiny Lizards eat insects, but also, smaller vertebrates.  Did you catch that that Anoles??

Spiny Lizards are bigger than Anoles by about three times in length, with more robust bodies.  They also have larger scales, with muted coloring allowing for their camouflage in native trees.  Spiny Lizards typically spend much their time in trees, so maybe they’ve been around, and inexplicably, I never noticed.  Regardless, I’m happy that one, at least once, graced the garden.

 

Then, there’s this clown.

I was watching a swarm of honeybees (yes, mine…) as they made their way to my SIL’s tree in the neighboring garden, when I caught sight of this character.  While I think that Mr. Green’s head (and that expression on his face!) is funny, I also think he’s a clever lizard.  He’s obviously lying in wait for a meal delivery of honeybee.  I’ve witnessed anoles hiding in the foliage of vines or perennials that also produce flowers visited by honeybees, then watched as Anoles snatch their bee prey at lightening speed, retreating into the protection of the foliage for a sweet, crunchy meal.

Nature’s cycles continue, even while we humans are locked-down.  If you’re able, now is a good time to observe events that progress successfully without human intervention and to take comfort in those natural happenings.  I recognize that I speak from a position of privilege:  I have a home, (nothing fancy), but nevertheless, a single family home with accompanying land where I’ve nurtured a full-of-life garden.  I realize that many (most) don’t have what I have and I know that I’m very, very fortunate. 

But nature is a balm in a world turned upside-down and inside…inside.  Be well, look out for your loved ones and neighbors, don’t gather in groups, but make your way outdoors if possible.  And wash your damn hands!

What wild happenings have you seen while you walk, or in your trees, or on the ground?  Please leave a link to your wildlife story when you comment here and good wildlife gardening and watching!

31 thoughts on “Reptile Rendezvous: Wildlife Wednesday, April 2020

  1. I am seeing the same critters in my yard, except the Spiny Lizard. The lizards here are having a very good year and our new arrivals from the Caribbean Brown Anoles are everywhere. That is a really good photo of the rat snake and I have also seen one in my yard that I snapped with my phone and will post later. Yes, we are so lucky to have gardens. My kids live in apartments and are getting cabin fever. Stay well.

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    • Are the Caribbean Brown Anole a problem? I’m not familiar with those, so I’ll look them up! Thanks, I was glad to get a shot of him/her; when I saw the snake last fall (or whenever it was), all I could see was the head, but I knew he/she was a good sized snake.

      My son is also in an apartment in Amman, Jordan. But he’s fortunate in that it’s on the ground floor and has a little patio, so he can sit outside. I feel for people in tiny apartments, but hope they stay safe in those tiny apartments.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The story is that the green had to move up to higher hunting grounds and the brown stay on the ground. My brown are mostly in the south facing front of the house, although some have moved to the back. When I’m walking in the front, the browns scurry away dashing into the beds.

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  2. So many lovely reptiles in your garden although I am a bit wimpy about snakes even if they only eat rats. Nice to see them in your gaarden rather than mine. I am enjoying birds,
    toads and early butterflies here. Once, there were frogs but they are getting scarce now.

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    • Haha–so many people are skittish about snakes. Poor things, they have such a bad reputation. I’m not going to try to pick this one up, trust me when I say I was at a respectful distance. I do see and pick up our little garden snakes as they’re only about 8 inches to a foot long; love those little things!

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  3. Congratulations on your new discoveries/garden members! As you know, I’m a bit squeamish around snakes, but I appreciate that they do good work. And this – “If you’re able, now is a good time to observe events that progress successfully without human intervention and to take comfort in those natural happenings.” – I keep telling people the same thing. Going outside, you realize that life outside our own bubble of humanity really DOES go on as usual. There is a great comfort in that. Keep staying well, Tina! ❤

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    • I know some folk can’t get outdoors at all and I’m certain it’s so hard for them. But for anyone who can take a safe walk or watch birds, I sure hope they’re taking advantage of that.

      You and yours stay healthy and well, too, Anna!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating. Out here in the wilds of north Hays county spiny lizards are everywhere but I recently spotted our first green anole. I wonder if this means their ranges are beginning to mutually expand?

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    • It’s certainly possible that the territories are expanding, although I don’t live that far (a few miles) from Zilker, where there were scads of the Spiny Lizards. Also, I know people who live just a few blocks west of my neighborhood and they have Spiny Lizards. As for the anoles, I’m glad you have at least one. Everyone should have a Green Anole.

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  5. Love your whole post Tina, your writing style and photographs. And the content, we need more of this to distract from the other stuff, even though it feels like a luxury to have time to observe nature when so many humans are in absolute crisis. Take care, best wishes, Julie

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    • Thank you, Julie! I do feel luxurious in that I can go outside and get away from it all, without leaving my home. Fortunate, indeed!

      I read on Christina’s blog that you’re now living in the Cotswolds. I love that area! My dream vacation is a bike touring ride through those towns!

      Maybe you’ll dust off your camera soon and start blogging again. I hope so!

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  6. Our anoles are out and also hunting bees in the blooming holly bushes! The June bugs are about done already, apparently. I wonder where they actually appear in June…

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    • Mine are out, but other than Mr. Sneaky-on-the-beehive, I haven’t seen any of them hunting. As for the June bugs, have you had BUNCHES of them this year? I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many! They always show up before June; mine are usually April bugs.

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      • Sooo many! The kids call the little spot where they congregate, die, and pile up “June Bug Land!” and want to give tours to anyone (which is often me and my husband, every few days.)
        Ours are also usually April bugs. March was new. I’m curious when the fireflies will appear this year.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It must be a kid thing. I have a distinct memory from when I was very young (maybe preschool?) of formally burying dead birds with a neighbor child. I remember pulling apart lantana florets (I’m from Corpus Christi, lots of lantana) and sprinkling them over the grave sites.

        Maybe I was just a weird kid. 🙂

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  7. I love Anoles Verdes: what a fun anecdote with the anole on your husband’s finger! Bufo americanus sing love songs looking for a female. You have Tree Frogs, how wonderful. The Rat Serpent is divine and very large, but if it is harmless to humans, let it live happily in the garden. Texas spiny lizard is fabulous. The clown is adorable. Yes, Tina, your magnificent garden is the refuge of many reptiles and that I think is fantastic for wildlife. In my country house I have only seen lizards, frogs and twice vipers that once bit my beloved dog Antón, may he rest in peace, and almost killed him, his head was twice as big and because it took him to the emergency room the vet and spent almost a month in treatment: thank goodness that there were no sequels. Tina I loved your blog. Tina take care and keep you safe. Loving greetings from Margarita.

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    • Hola, Margarita–it’s so nice to “see” you again on my blog and thank you for your lovely email. I wish you and your mother safety and health, as well during this difficult time.

      I’m sorry that your poor dog was bitten, but glad he recovered!

      The garden is wonderful to have and I’m so appreciative. You and your mother stay safe and healthy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Tina for everything. It has been a pleasure to read one of your blogs again: I missed it so much. Thank you very much for the wishes for my Mother and for me. Equally for your husband and for you. Take Care. Loving greetings from Margarita xx

        Liked by 1 person

    • Haha–yes, it’s definitely not obsoleta, though I haven’t seen it for a week or so. As for for the anoles, I’m not sure, except that there’s lots here for them to eat and plenty of places to, um, shelter in place. I grew up in Corpus, so have had the green goblins as outdoor companions for the whole of my life.

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  8. I know you know the rat snake’s also known as a chicken snake, thanks to that climbing ability. It can find and raid a chicken coop in a flash.

    I’d wondered whether I was going to have any lizards around here; it made sense that they’d be here, but I hadn’t seen any. Now, I have: green anoles, what I think are the Caribbean brown. There’s another species that’s about the size of the anole, but black as midnight. I don’t remember seeing them before. Actually, I’m not sure if they’re another species, or a variant, or the Caribbean in a different life stage.

    What’s really funny is that I see the most lizards on the boat I’m working on now. It’s parked behind a big house with glorious landscaping on a private canal, so there are plenty of good things for a lizard to eat. What surprised me is that they use the boat’s mooring lines as highways; they’ll climb up the lines and on to the boat. I have to be careful, because they can be anywhere: lounging in the cockpit, atop the bimini, hiding among the lines. They don’t seem particularly skittish, either. I’ve been nose to nose with a couple of them, and I laugh every time.

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    • I always forget that it’s “nickname” is chicken snake. I guess these snakes like all sorts of feathered things. I’m not at all surprised that you have the Greens, but that Brown Caribbean is an unknown one to me. Judy of Automatic Gardener also mentioned that she’s has plenty of them, as well–a coastal thing, I guess, but I wonder if their range will spread?

      They do crawl up in amazing places and always get a smile from me, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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