74. Wildlife by the Pond
Wildlife viewing exceeded our expectations! A big blue heron tried to claim the territory by standing on the fence by the pond for days. But he wearied of chasing the many egrets, large and small, which came to “fish” in the shallow water. In the top of a tree behind the pond, I spotted the white head of a Bald Eagle. It was drizzling rain, and he was sitting with wings spread wide; probably soaked up too much water.
An otter came through several days. The “warty” toads outside the house had little ones, if you can imagine toads the size of your little finger nail. A green toad, the size of a quarter, camped on the doorbell a few days, but I guess he got tired of the ringing in his ears, and moved to the door jam above.
Betty’s mother put up a bird feeder and bath. These conveniences attracted cardinals, and grackles, redwing blackbirds, a great flock of doves, and assorted others. The flock of baby cattle egrets with their golden plumes were a delight. They dashed about the yard, especially after a mowing, to see who could catch the grasshoppers and bugs. One trio swooped low in over the pond, then flared up to land gracefully on the bank. The third one mis-judged his “fare” and nose-dived into the bank — embarrassing, I’m sure!
We were delighted when a pair of cardinals showed up on the sill of our one-way window in the bathroom. We were not so delighted when the female stayed, day after day, to peck at her reflection — starting at dawn! Tap, tap tapity tap…groan. I finally covered the outside of the window with cardboard so we could sleep. After a week, the rain took the cardboard off and the cardInal did not return.
One day I discovered a giant four foot lizard in the planter in the corner of the pool. How it got in the pool enclosure I do not know. The animal rescue guy who came to get it told us it was not native to Florida, and was an illegal pet.
We arrived home one day to see the big turtle that had moved into our pond, crossing the street in front of the house. Betty ran to the rescue! She lifted his rear end, hoping to speed him out of the street. Oops. He disappeared into his shell. Several cars stopped, blocking the street, but Betty poked at the turtle’s rear, and finally got him to our yard. Once he saw the pond, he made a fast dash for the water.
Most nights during the summer we enjoyed our evening swim serenaded by the magnificent harmony of the 500,000 mixed voice frog chorus in the miles of swamp north of us. At their best on rainy nights, the chorus was joined by three guest operatic bull frog bass soloists stationed near our bedroom window. The deep bass bull frogs were a counterpoint for the special echo arias across the swamp! Beautiful!
A few nights, between 3:00 & 4:00 AM, the choir was joined, (or startled silent) by the punctuation of a “night-caller.” It sounded like a 300 lb. Flamingo frightened from sleep by a bad dream, or the dying scream of the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Someone suggested a screech owl — It was either a very LARGE screech owl, or one close to our window with a megaphone! The only bird we have learned about with such a call, is the Sand Hill Crane, which can be four feet tall. But why they would be flying at 3:00 AM, we’ll never know.
One moonlit night as I shuffled to a mid-night raid on the refrigerator, I noticed a shadowy figure in the backyard! A huge masked bandit rousting the bird feeder! A large raccoon ambled over to check the offerings. After failing to reach above the squirrel “discourager” shield, Mr. Coon sat down and shook the feeder pole so the seeds fell down. Why climb? Round 1 — Mr. Coon.
Next morning, we discovered the top was off our garbage can and trash scattered over the yard as our stuff was “searched.” — Round 2 — Mr. Coon again.
We tied the top on the garbage can. Next morning we found the can tipped over with the top worked open just far enough for Mr. Coon to pull stuff out – Round 3 — Mr. Coon, still ahead.
We then tied the secured can to the house by the pool enclosure so it couldn’t be tipped over. Next morning. Round 4 — We win! — can still intact!
So, that night we put the can out by the street for the next day garbage pick up. (We’re smart, but a little slow.) You guessed it! Next morning the trash was spread a little too thin along the street for the men to pick it up.
Round 5 — and winner again— Mr. Coon! From then on we took the trash out in the morning. Game over.
The vision isn’t always the result. The “sit tub” was so deep, I couldn’t see out the one-way window, which incidentally was one-way out during the day, and one-way in at night when one is bathing. The water in the solar roof over the pool heated nicely on warm, sunny summer days, so I swam at night in bath-tub warm water, but in summer, Florida also has many grey days, and the water was like any other pool — too cold for me.
The “dream home” was fun while it lasted. My sister Jan moved to Tampa to live with her daughter, and Betty’s mother moved to an assisted living facility. The house was too big for the two of us, so it was time to move on.