In Your Backyard

  Is the only thing you see when you look out your rear window a Golfer or an empty field? ... Look again!

  Up in the tree branches may be a Screech Owl or even a Barn Owl. and a few branches down on the tree, there may be a six-foot-long Everglades Racer slithering from branch to branch before he jumps to the ground.

  The Mourning Doves that are feeding underneath your bird feeder may be scattered by an attack from a Red-tailed Hawk who will soon reduce their prey to a small pile of feathers and a few bones. This does not bother the lumbering, platter-sized Gopher Tortise who is only forraging for a few greens to take back to his subterranean nest.

  A Red Fox passing by your back yard will not even give the Tortise a second glance, as he searches for field mice or perhaps a few tasty treats of a couple of Anoles, as these lizard look-alikes are busy eating some of the insects that are attacking your foliage plants.

  Even the doves and the Florida Scrub Jays are not intimidated by the ground squirrels that relish the sunflower seeds you put out for the birds, but when the Fox Squirrel comes hopping along on his massive rear legs, the birds generally suspend their feeding while this white-eared masked intruder takes charge.

  But....when the stately Sand Hill Crane pair comes over to the feeder, it suddenly becomes exclusive crane territory. The squirrels hide on the back side of a tree trunk to avoid the possibility of being speared by these relatives of the Whooping Crane.

Another resident who fears the beak of the crane is the common Garter Snake. He is a friendly reptile who likes to eat grubs and anoles, as well as frogs and mice. His colors are drab, which help protect him from notice. Not so the Corn Snake, who has colorful bands on his skin that tend to make humans think that he is the poisonous Coral Snake.

  Unfortunately, most humans feel that it is better safe than sorry, and usually try to kill the harmless snake rather than properly identify it. The hapless garter snake or the corn snake that wanders thru an open garage door, or tries to rest under a cushion on some porch furniture is either classed as a Rattlesnake or a Coral snake and dispatched without having a chance to demonstrate his helpful function of keeping yard pests under control.

  Common Field rats seldom invade houses here, preferring to burrow underground or even climbing trees to rob a nest of baby birds or eggs. Sometimes the rat population is controlled by the Feral Cats that seem to like drainage pipes for their homes. Sometimes these felines are escaped household pets, but more likely the offspring of common cats that are generations removed from their domesticated relatives.

  The Feral cat is usually kept under control by the Red Fox that has been a Timer Pines resident long before US Homes started building houses here. Mostly nocturnal, the fox is rarely seen during the day as his nature dictates a quick retreat whenever a human is spotted. Another nocturnal visitor who is rarely seen is the Armadillo, whose presence is made known by the clacking of his exoskeleton armor as he forages during the night.

  Generally he is observed only by the Owl in the tree above who cries out his plaintive questioning "whoooo" that the armadillo never answers.

  There is more to My Backyard (and yours) than the common and migrating population of birds that varies with the seasons. There is a world of wondrous animals, that make their sanctuary in Timber Pines a joy for all residents to behold.

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