Posts Tagged Green Anole

Residents and Visitors

Common Buckeye enjoying Joe Pye Weed.

My five-acre patch of Piedmont is positively bustling with animal life these days. Perhaps the creatures have noticed the sun’s later risings and settings, and have begun their preparations for winter. Whatever their reasons, every day we seem to stumble upon an interesting resident or visitor.

Wonder Spouse spotted this Common Buckeye nectaring on the abundant blooms still perfuming the yard.  We see them off and on throughout the growing season, but it had been a while since we’d seen one. Here’s what it looked like with its wings folded:

Earlier that same day, I spotted a Red Admiral hanging around the front flowerbeds:

Red Admiral enjoying Seven-Sons Flower Tree blooms.

Here’s another angle:

The Seven-Sons Flower Tree blooms attract pollinators of all kinds.

I’ve been spotting a small anole hunting in the pineapple sage and lantanas for about a month now. It is only about three inches long, and I suspect it may be the result of an encounter I documented here. But it is too small and too shy for me to catch with my camera. However, the same day that I saw the Red Admiral, I also spotted a large, Green Anole climbing in the warm sun on the south side of my house. I saw no evidence of a throat patch, so it might have been a large female, but I’m not sure. See for yourself:

See how the end of her(?) tail is brown? I wonder if she injured it.

She was reasonably patient with me, but eventually turned to face me, as if to say, “Enough already!”

The Writing Spiders continue to flourish. Some are growing faster than others. I call this one Big Bertha, because she is by far the largest:

Big Bertha has claimed a prime location, where many unsuspecting pollinators become her  victims.

Wonder Spouse continues to document some of the numerous dragonflies currently patrolling our gardens, like this one:

Check out the head on this predator.

This one was posing on some Coneflower seed heads:

Dragonflies are more cooperative models than butterflies, which tend to flutter from flower to flower too frequently for optimal photo ops.

The creepiest photo Wonder Spouse took that day was this fly. I don’t know its species, but I do know it is big, mean, and aggressive. This fly and its kin are the reason we do not wear shorts in our yard. The bites of these monsters hurt for weeks.

I’m sure it has a place in the ecosystem, but its kin are not my friends.

Today is has rained much of the day, so we didn’t expect to see as many critters going about their business as we usually do. Imagine my astonishment this morning when I looked out my window onto the floodplain and spotted two dark shapes. I soon realized they were too small to be deer. When I decided they were birds, my first thought was vultures, because we have a group that sometimes hangs out around our creek. However, these birds were walking around in a very un-vulture-like manner. A thought occurred: “Could these be Wild Turkeys?”

They were walking in the mowed area at the far end of the floodplain, strutting about in the rain, one often chasing the other. Once we got the birding scope on them, we were able to confirm these were indeed Wild Turkeys. Over the years, we’ve seen a few not far from here, but never in our yard. As we watched, they gradually wandered closer to us, but never closer than the large Red Buckeye that grows near the creek. In fact, when the rain grew heavier, they both huddled beneath the thick canopy provided by that Red Buckeye. We could just make out their dark shapes through the driving rain.

When the rain let up, the Turkeys wandered back out into the grassy area, so Wonder Spouse grabbed his tripod and set up his camera — with telephoto lens —  in front of the sliding glass door overlooking the floodplain. It was still raining too hard to take the camera outdoors, the light was dim, and the Turkeys never stayed in one place long enough for a decent shot. But these photos at least confirm a visit from two Wild Turkeys — females, we think.

The only shot of both birds together.

Yup, it’s really a Wild Turkey.

Despite the off-and-on hard rain, the Turkeys wandered around the floodplain for about 45 minutes, until something caused them to dash out of sight for good. We thought we were done with visitors for the day, until we spotted what had caused the Turkeys to flee: a large Common Snapping Turtle! We don’t think she was after the Turkeys, but we don’t blame them for erring on the side of caution when dealing with this species of reptile.

When the rain paused for a bit, Wonder Spouse and I went out for a closer look at the Snapper slowly lumbering across the floodplain. We see Snappers and River Cooters every once in a while; they are always females in search of the soft sandbars they prefer for nesting sites.

Wonder Spouse was able to get a few close shots of what we think is an old female during a pause in the rain.

We are guessing she is old because of the significant wear evident on her shell; the characteristic ridges seem to have been eroded.

She froze in mid-step when Wonder Spouse stepped, respectfully, in front of her for a head shot.

In this close-up, you can see what looks like green algae growing on the top of her head:

She looks almost as if she were carved from local stone, or perhaps a cypress knee.

We didn’t bother her for long. A quick online search revealed that these turtles often come out to lay eggs in weather like today’s, probably because the ground is softer, I imagine. We have a healthy respect for the Snapping Turtles that share our property. We leave them to their business, and they don’t bite off our toes or fingers. Seems a fair deal to me.

I’ll be keeping watch for another visit by the Wild Turkeys. We found a Web site that included recordings of their various calls. When I listened to them, I realized I’ve been hearing these calls all summer. I think Wild Turkeys probably nested in the floodplain woodland across the creek from our property. I had been hearing bird calls I couldn’t identify, and had decided they must be a neighbors’ poultry. But now I realize that the Wild Turkeys have been talking in the adjacent woods all summer.

What a great day this has turned out to be. Not only did the plants get a much-appreciated dose of moisture, but the Snapping Turtles got a chance to multiply themselves, and a new bird species stopped by — in the pouring rain!

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An Amorous Anole Afternoon

Bright green male displaying pinkish throat fan

Yesterday afternoon about four, I was returning to my front door after closing my greenhouse against an impending cold night when I spotted two Green Anoles (Anolis carolinensis) — one green and one brown — moving about in one of my White Texas Sage plants near my front water feature. One of the lizards displayed his dewlap — that reddish throat pouch you see above — and I realized I was watching some kind of anole-anole encounter. I ran inside to grab my camera, hoping they might still be there when I returned.

By the time I got back out, the dark brown anole had vanished into the greenery near the base of my little pond. But the bright green male in the picture above was still there, now on the low railing of my front deck beside the White Texas Sage. He obligingly posed for the shot above. I was only sitting about two feet from him.

These lizards are common in my yard, but I had never seen them so docile about my presence. At first I attributed their slowness to the cool day, but as I continued to watch — for almost an hour and a half — I realized that although this fellow wasn’t thrilled about my presence, he was vastly more interested in the female lurking below him.

I sat on the edge of the deck beside the White Texas Sage for the first hour, until I finally realized that the male was not happy with my proximity. I then moved to a bench just above the area about six feet away. It was only after I moved that the female relaxed enough to join the male.

I watched the male change color repeatedly from bright green to greenish brown to brown to deep gray and back to green. At the time, I thought perhaps the color show — along with many throat pouch displays — were designed to impress the female. But after researching these animals a bit, I now think my proximity was stressing the poor little guy. He eventually got through to me — looking straight at me and opening his mouth wide at me — a silent roar, if you will. That’s when I finally got a clue and moved further away.

I took almost 200 photos. Here’s a photo synopsis of what I watched, beginning with the photo above. After that display, the male jumped back to my White Texas Sage and began changing to a greenish brown color:

A short time later, he began reverting to a greener shade:

When he was fully green, he inflated his throat patch again:

After his pouch deflated, he went back to brown:

He then jumped back to the low rail surrounding my front deck, where he lounged for a bit, then turned and glared at me:

At least, I thought he was glaring at me. Turns out he had spotted the female. My research tells me these lizards have keen vision. I finally spotted her too, lurking deep within the new foliage of a daylily:

The female’s color never changed, and her gender lacks the throat fans the males possess.

The male jumped back onto the White Texas Sage, turned green, and inflated his throat fan:

Turning toward the female and going a little browner, he displayed again:

Failing to achieve his desired result, and likely stressed by my intrusive camera, the male darkened to a deep brown:

Note the ridge along the back of his neck. He may have raised this in an attempt to look larger and scare me off.

When I didn’t react, he shifted priorities back to the female and returned to green:

Yes, he might have been glaring at me. I suspect the female retreated, because the male moved back to the deck. Here he has jumped to the side board framing the deck floor:

Check out those pads on his feet. Green Anoles are mostly arboreal, although they can be found in many suburban and even urban environments at any level from ground to rooftop. Those pads allow him to stick to vertical surfaces.

He climbed back on to the narrow low rail and once again displayed his dewlap:

It was at this point that I realized I was too close, so I moved to a bench about six feet away. The male appeared to relax a bit, remaining green, and soaking up some afternoon sun:

He jumped up abruptly and turned to look down into the greenery below. He must have spotted the female again, although I couldn’t see her no matter how hard I looked.

Determined to impress the object of his desire, he puffed out his throat pouch again:

This one did the trick. As I watched him leap back down to the White Texas Sage, the female suddenly appeared on the same plant. The male made his move:

Mating was achieved:

I read that mating can continue for 30-45 minutes. After about five, I moved in for one last close-up and then gave them their privacy:

I read that females only lay one egg at a time, and may lay one a week for a number of weeks. Dominant males keep harems of up to six females, but I saw no evidence of that in my front garden yesterday.

Green Anoles eat insects, spiders, and other invertebrates. When I had pet cats lounging on this front deck, I rarely saw lizards, but I had an abundance of Praying Mantises. With no cats to plague them, the Green Anoles and skinks now rule my decks, and I almost never see a Mantis in my front garden anymore.

These changing population dynamics, and the encounter I was lucky enough to observe yesterday, remind me that my Piedmont garden is always first a habitat for the natives with whom I share this space. That’s why I don’t use poisons, and why my yard will always look less groomed than many others. My gardens and yard are as integrated into the native landscape as I can manage. After all, the plants and animals here are as much Piedmonters as I am.

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