Posts Tagged Eastern Fence Lizard

Blog Highlights for 2012

This Eastern Fence Lizard was a new species in our yard this year.

This Eastern Fence Lizard was a new species in our yard this year.

Happy Last Day of 2012, everyone — unless you live in New Zealand or other countries where 2013 has already arrived. Here in my patch of southeastern US Piedmont, we were treated to a spectacular final sunrise of the year. A cold front is just arriving from the west, and a high-altitude wind is pushing herds of puffy sheep clouds across the sky from west to east.

When I looked west early this morning, the silvery sheep were nearly invisible in a lilac sky. But as I followed the herd across the sky to the east, they began to glow pink, as light from the rising sun reflected on their undersides. Turning to the ridge line that marks our eastern horizon, the sky was aflame with deep reds and oranges, reflecting fire onto the water of the creek. The cloud sheep in the east were peach and pink puffy masterpieces. Along the far south horizon, one sliver of vivid turquoise colored the sky where clouds had not yet arrived. The sun topped the horizon, and the colors muted to pastels as the sky directly above me deepened from lilac to azure. An eye blink later, the show was over as the sheep coalesced into a solid sheet of gray.

The rain won’t arrive until tomorrow, so the weather seers predict. The blanket of clouds will keep midnight revelers warmer than last night. Temperatures here fell to nineteen degrees Fahrenheit before the clouds showed up. Personally, I think a wet start to the new year is most auspicious. The drought here has lingered for most of the past decade. I estimate it would take an inch a week for the entire year to bring my area back up to the water levels it once enjoyed.  Here’s hoping we all get the weather we need in 2013.

Meanwhile, the folks at WordPress have been hard at work crunching year-end statistics for my little blog. As I did here last year, I thought I’d take a quick look at which posts you folks read most frequently.

First, let me remind you that I began this blog in January of 2011. Today’s post makes the 251st entry since I started. For 2012, this is the 73rd new entry. These new entries include 460 new photos.

This year, the day with the most page views was March 29, when the blog attained 208 views in one 24-hour period. I have no idea what happened that day, but I suspect someone in the Webiverse with readers linked to this site, resulting in the astonishing increase in traffic. The most popular post that day was a piece I wrote about my Loropetalum shrubs. Here’s the link, and here is that often-viewed photo of one of the shrubs in full bloom.

Loropetalum 'Zhuzhou Fuchsia'

Loropetalum ‘Zhuzhou Fuchsia’

It does make quite an impact, doesn’t it? This year, the most frequently viewed entries were all posts I wrote in 2011, and all but the first one dealt with specific plants in my garden, which reinforces the fact that most of you find my blog while searching for information on specific plant-related topics.

Top posts from last year include:

Going deeper into the most-viewed list reveals the top five entries written this year:

Personally, I was gratified that my posts on invasive exotic species were sought out frequently. This issue will only increase in significance in the coming years, so I’m glad folks are starting to pay more attention to this growing threat to our native ecosystems.

At this moment, my blog has been viewed 46,952 times since the first entry — 11,732 views in 2011, and 35,220 views in 2012. Average views per day in 2011 totaled 33, but climbed to 96 views per day for 2012. I think this is pretty good for a blog I’ve never advertised. I attribute the increased numbers to diligent tagging, enabling search engines to find relevant posts.

I can’t end this retrospective without acknowledging the amazing self-described “happiness engineers” at WordPress.  Their work to continually enhance and improve the functionality of their blogging software is most appreciated by this writer. Just this month, they’ve added a new statistic to the mix. I can now differentiate between the number of daily visitors and the number of daily views, thereby allowing a calculation for average views per visitor. Most interesting! And I must give a shout-out to Happiness Engineer Bryan, who through a series of e-mail exchanges, politely and patiently walked me through how to use some new functionality their interface now offers. Thanks again, Bryan!

And many thanks to my readers, especially those of you who take time to comment on my offerings. It is gratifying to know that sharing my gardening obsession is perhaps of some utility to others out there. I hope we can continue to help each other as weather challenges mount and new plant varieties arise.

Of course, the imminent arrival of a new year also brings a new gardening season. I’ve already placed my seed/plant orders, and I’ve been mentally building a to-do list so that the garden will be ready when planting time arrives. I’ll share my thoughts about all that in an entry next year.

Meanwhile, I wish all of you a Happy Gardening New Year!

R. flammeum 'Scarlet Ibis'

R. flammeum ‘Scarlet Ibis’

, ,

Leave a comment

Guardian of the Walk and Other Newcomers

Eastern Fence Lizard defends its turf.

In the 23 years that we’ve been tending our five acres of North Carolina Piedmont, we have encountered many native animals. I am happy to report that our greenly chaotic landscape is home to most of the species of reptiles and amphibians that you’d expect to find in such a spot. Lizards are especially welcome because of their bug-eating habits and non-venomous natures, and numerous skinks and anoles have always been all over the yard.

But until the day of the Summer Solstice, I had never seen an Eastern Fence Lizard here. This has always puzzled me, because theses lizards are notoriously arboreal — more so than our other native lizards — and our yard certainly has plenty of trees. Still, no matter what time of day or season I walked our land, I never saw one Eastern Fence Lizard.

Imagine my surprise when I finally encounter one — on my front sidewalk! According to the sources I checked, Eastern Fence Lizards prefer open woods with lots of rotten logs and stumps to hide in. And they are never far from trees, because that’s where they run when they are frightened.

Although I will admit that my front garden is not exactly in garden-magazine-worthy shape, no rotten logs or stumps are to be found there. And the trees near the spot where I found the above lizard are not large — no more than ten or twelve feet high with slender trunks.

We’ve seen this lizard in the same area three days in a row now. It seems to have declared the end of our walk where it meets the driveway as its territory. We see it there every morning a few hours after sunrise. The driveway ends in a rock wall, which our other lizard species adore, so perhaps that’s part of the attraction. And I recently added fresh mulch — shredded wood — to the bed that edges the walk, so it’s nice and moist. Lizards eat spiders and insects, and Eastern Fence Lizards are supposed to be especially fond of beetles. I am certain that end of the front garden is a veritable lizard smorgasbord.

It looks quite ferocious, doesn’t it? It seems unimpressed by the humans who keep taking pictures of it. That close-up above was taken by Ace Photographer Wonder Spouse this morning.  Here’s one I took yesterday:

Eastern Fence Lizard seeking breakfast.

He’s looking at the giant lantanas blooming profusely along the walk. They attract all kinds of pollinators. I’m thinking this creature has noticed.

Later this morning as we returned from picking vegetables in the garden (75 Jade bush beans, 74 Fortex pole beans, 3 Sweet Treats cherry tomatoes, 1 Super Marzano paste tomato, 1 Viva Italia paste tomato, 2 Raven zucchinis, and 1 Spineless Perfection zucchini), we discovered the lizard had moved from the walk to the mulch. It was all splayed out, perhaps to maximize its ability to soak up a weak sun obscured by morning clouds. It blends in so well with the mulch that I wouldn’t have seen it if it hadn’t moved just a bit as we approached. See what I mean:

Camouflage expert blends with the mulch.

I’m guessing that passing insects may well have as much difficulty spotting the lizard as I did – perhaps with fatal consequences for them.

We’re delighted to have this new species of lizard move into such a prominent location, where we can observe it often. Odds are its kind has been around all along; this one just may be a bit bolder than its kin.

Two other animal newcomers have shown themselves this week. A juvenile Green Frog has moved into our front pond.

Young Green Frog meditating on a misty morning.

We spot it often sitting on the edge enjoying the mist from our ultrasonic mister. My research says that newly metamorphosed Green Frogs will travel as far as three miles to find a new pond after they emerge from their birth ponds.

I know — it doesn’t look very green, does it? According to the link above, they usually don’t. But that ridge running from its eye down its back is diagnostic for the species according to the link, so I’m fairly certain that’s what it is.

One more newbie animal showed up today — a gorgeous Red-headed Woodpecker. This is another species that I’ve always felt should be here, but I’ve only spotted one once before, about ten years ago — and only one time. Although our yard would seem to provide ideal habitat for these woodpeckers, I suspect that the well-established populations of other species of woodpeckers may have something to do with the scarcity of this one. Every other native woodpecker of my region, including the Pileated Woodpecker, routinely nests and feeds in our yard.

The Red-headed Woodpecker I saw today was moving from tree to tree on our floodplain. It did not wish to cooperate with me and my camera, so you’ll have to take my word for it that I saw it. Wonder Spouse saw it too, which helped to assure me that I wasn’t imagining this beauty.

I hope all the newcomers will stick around. It has always been my hope that by increasing the native plant species diversity in our yard, we would also increase wildlife species diversity. I’m happy to report that our efforts seem to be paying off. As we continue to create ideal nesting and foraging habitats — and provide additional native food — the critters keep on coming.

As the woodlands all around us are replaced by the botanical monotony of new suburbs, I expect even more wildlife will find our yard a welcome haven in the years to come. Here’s hoping I can make room for all the wild ones.

, , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: