Monday, July 18, 2016

Jokers of the Non-Human Variety

There have been a few surprises since moving south. Some have left me with my heart in my mouth, others have made me chuckle; still others have left me with a feeling of wonder. At all times, however, I've been left with the certainty that critters of all sorts like nothing half so well as a good laugh at my expense.

There's the heart attack frog, for instance, whom I first met when I was going to get bottled water from the spare refrigerator, which is located in a shed/workshop outside of the house. H.A.Frog had plastered him or herself on the window; fortunately for me, for our first meeting Le Ribbett had gathered it's limbs together in a neat little bundle, like this:


Subsequent meetings found the little croaker splayed across and pressing against the window like a tired old hussy trying to rustle up a drink. Well, except for the time it crashed into, and clung onto, the window right beside where I was sitting, prompting an impromptu run to the bathroom...

Then we have the ever-popular George and friends (with various and sundry permutations of the name),


one of whom, who should have more properly been named Georgina, chose to move into the house and become our resident pest control and pet. One often sees her darting busily up and down walls in search of an insect dinner. She has also proved herself both remarkably fecund and agile by giving birth (being a live-bearer rather than an egg-layer) on the ceiling above my head. I might have carried on through life happily ignorant of this momentous event, if Georgina hadn't arranged for some of what I assumed was amniotic fluid to drip on my head. 

I heard her snicker as she scampered off.

Being in the southern part of Florida during the summer means you see rain. Lots of rain. Lots of rain means there are unhappy and hungry reptiles about; the long, slithery kind. On yet another hot night, when I'd stepped out to fetch water from the other refrigerator, I came face to face with uncertain long and slithery death. Well, foot to face. If I'd gone down the steps and to the shed door. Which I didn't, because I noticed a long, skinny, moving and hissing stretch of ill-tempered snake banded in red, yellow and black stretched out in front of the shed door.


It was dark outside, with only a rather dim outside light to see by, so I levitated backward into the house and quickly slammed the door. Of course there is a rhyme to help one differentiate between a real and a false coral snake, and I could remember it? That's right, other than gibbering "snake, snake, SNAKE " my mind wasn't functioning. Snakes don't usually frighten me, I'd often take one or two to my mother as a gift when I was a child, but a far too close encounter with a rattlesnake when I was in my early teens persuaded me that caution where poisonous creatures were concerned was the course of wisdom. Fortunately, the park's owner was able to safely wrangle the snake, identify it as non-venomous, and released it somewhere a bit more removed from human habitation. The frog, the myriad Georges, and I were all quite happy with that solution. The snake stuck out it's tongue and sneered at me as it slithered into the wild.

And then there's the feathered joker that kept me puzzled for days as I tried to figure out where the duck with the obnoxious quack was hiding. After a little sleuthing and a bit of research I realized: If it quacks like a duck it may well be a Northern mockingbird! They're lovely birds about the size of a cardinal or blue jay, with a beautiful voice and are quite talented mimics who can memorize up to 200 songs and sounds. I'm sure it had a good laugh or three as it quacked at me! At least it wasn't imitating a car alarm, as they are wont to do.


Enjoy a bit of the mockingbird's song:



22 comments:

  1. I was getting really agitated (for you), reading about and seeing all those critters - and the amniotic fluid drippage. Oh, hon! Alas, I hope the mockingbird's singing soothed you as much as it did me.
    Hugs to you, my friend.

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    1. After encounters with bears, camels that drool all over one's hair whilst trying to eat it, bats pretending to be flying squirrels and a grumpy rattlesnake who hid beneath my row boat seat until we were in mid-pond, what's a little amniotic fluid drippage?

      Yes, all those things (and more!) have actually happened to me.

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  2. I am pretty certain that some days everything in the world laughs at me. Animate or not.
    I don't do snakes at all well, but am chuckling at the rest. Including the amniotic fluid. Though I may have used all the house shampoo. Mine and everyone else's.

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    1. My hair has been remarkably soft, since... ;-)

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  3. I would have thought half a dozen different birds were about if I hadn't heard all those sounds from just the one.

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    1. They have an incredible repertoire... all to defend their mate and territory by (presumably) convincing potential rivals there are scores of feathered death dealers waiting for them to make the wrong move.

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  4. I've never thought about about the name, but duh, mocking bird, mocking... Snakes, I not like.

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    1. I can't blame anyone from Australia for not liking snakes; we have venomous snakes here but nothing like yours!

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  5. I saw a Cardinal bird in Florida, and asked a Floridian what they call them. "We call them red birds".

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    1. That kind of ignorance drives me crazy!

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  6. Florida may be becoming well developed in some places, but it is still wild at heart. I really enjoyed this. I have encountered a cottonmouth snake, bobcats, and alligators on my bike rides in Central Florida. This was their home first. I have declared war on Lubber Grasshoppers. And, of course, we've said nothing about the insects...

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    1. Have you tried Nolo for the Lubbers?

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  7. I love Mockingbirds and Cat Birds! Definitely not snakes, though. We see lizards all the time, especially where we often have coffee. But the resident cat at that park loves them, so too often now we see him running off with half a lizard sticking out of his mouth and a lizard tail flopping all over the patio. Not pretty. But the cat is well-fed.

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    1. There aren't any cats nearby so the Georges are safe-ish. Cat birds, in my experience, have a penchant for imitating rusty gates and squeaking doors... which is still better than imitating car alarms!

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  8. Aren't mockingbirds wonderful! Once we had one who taunted the dogs with all the noises that set them off.

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  9. I'll stick with cats and avoid all those critters laughing at me

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    1. I have no problem with reptiles that aren't bitey.

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  11. I love the diversity of critters you've got there. Our snakes are a lot wimpier. We only have those tiny spaghetti-sized garden snakes that slither away at the very sight of you. And no lizards. There's hardly any ceiling-birth-giving or heart-attack-inducing. Frankly, it's very disappointing.

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    1. Ah garden snakes... like the one who hid beneath my desk and slithered over my bare foot, laughing all the way.

      I could stand a little disappointment.

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C'mon, be cranky and let 'er rip!