I like to think that my years in Swaziland prepared me to truly love and embrace all varieties of wildlife. Its a good thing too because Africa and my little part of Florida are in serious competition when it comes to frequent animal encounters. Friends joke I should charge admission to my porch to see the many wonders that crawl, scurry, graze, amble and jump through my backyard. While some other Florida folks might not consider this a bonus to my property, I do. I consider it a wonderful blessing honestly. I love wildlife and here it is, literally at my backdoor.
However (as I have previously posted), while I love these animals, I struggle with how two naturally curious and blissfully ignorant under five year old boys and these beasts can safely co-exist. I always worry a bit. While my boys play soccer out back, I stand guard at the trees and water with one eye out. But again, just like they did in Africa, these animals would rather avoid us loud, smelly, annoying humans; I know they aren’t all lined up in the woods ready to pounce on us at any moment. So I watch out but usually just enjoy our personal, live and up close, “discovery channel”.
No matter what we see, my goal is to teach my children a true love, understanding and respect for all beasties that travel through our neighborhood. Granted, my son will hardly even look up from his coloring book if I mention there an animal in the yard. So what. There is always something out and about. Both of my boys find having a turn with the binoculars much more thrilling than actually looking at the softshell turtle the size of my car tire crawling by. But I still get that thrill. And I thought I would share some pictures of what I have seen with you. This is only a sampling. And I may come back and add more.
An aligator sunning himself on the far bank. Its safe to assume there is an aligator in most ponds or lakes in Florida. I have only seen an aligator walk through my yard once, but once is certainly enough.
Sandhill Cranes – very common in Florida but they are fearless and seem to have real interest in getting into my garage.
A Water Moccossin snake, also known as a Cottonmouth. Out of 100 species, this is one of the 4 poisonous (however less common) snakes in Florida. They are potentially deadly. This was taken in my front yard as I was coming back from an afternoon walk. I quickly wheeled my children into the garage and locked them in the house while I took this picture.
One evening I went out my front door to find a spiderweb suspended from a tree and spread across my front yard. And there in the middle, seemingly floating, was this huge spider. I never found out what type it was. There was no trace of it the next morning except for one last bit of web still intact on a branch of the tree.
Probably one of the most amazing sightings I’ve seen. This mother and young bobcat were first playing in my backyard in the sun. Very relaxed with each other but wary. They did see a person in the distance out front and disappeared into the bushes for about 20 minutes. Once the coast was clear, they came back out, walked past my house and across the street and disappeared over a fence. Amazing.
The first bobcat seen in my backyard. I honestly thought it was just a large stray cat but no. It saw me, marked its terrotory, and stalked off.