From the living room to the back door

I’ve unfortunately been too busy with work and last week too sick with the flu to do much walking at the lake, let alone to do much in the way of photography.

That vexes me, yes, but things could be worse: I could be unemployed.  Now’s hardly the time to complain when it comes to being overworked and underpaid.

All the while, I’m back on call this week (what a familiar refrain that’s become).  There’s no chance of getting out for more than a visit to the patio.

But the patio’s not at all bad considering where I live.  So much life flourishes at White Rock Lake that living here makes it all but impossible to not see something of interest even if the length of my walk is from the living room to the back door.

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched in the tree (2008_12_17_002590)

A male house sparrow (Passer domesticus) perched in the tree is a familiar vision.  A veritable horde of this species lives nearby, so they make for constant companions throughout the year.

But these are not brave birds, I’ve discovered.

A cardinal need only hiss to frighten the sparrows away, and even a Carolina wren can chase the sparrows off.  Having seen both events recently as many species vied for a bit of the birdseed bounty I put out, I laughed each time: surprised to see a male cardinal be so forceful and shocked to see a tiny wren send the sparrows fleeing for their lives.

A northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched in a tree (2008_12_17_002579)

Northern mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos) are as ubiquitous as they are fearless.  When all other birds flee, at least one mockingbird will be around to keep an eye on things.  When a predator moves in, at least one mockingbird will sound the alarm and launch the first assault.  When other birds invade territory that somehow is sacred—nesting season or not, the mockingbirds sweep in and attack.

How beautiful their diverse repertoire of song, though.  The other morning I thought one of the local monk parakeets had landed in my tree; the mockingbird offered a perfect copy of the bird’s sound.  Only when it launched into a complete musical presentation full of various songs and sounds did I realize I had been fooled, and joyously so I will admit!

A friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi) sunning on the patio fence (2009_01_07_004240)

The friendly fly (a.k.a. government fly or large flesh fly; Sarcophaga aldrichi) looks like the common housefly; the only difference is that it’s noticeably larger than its pesky cousin.

In the midst of a winter that has been overly warm, I discovered this friendly fly grabbing a bit of sun on the patio fence.  Hot enough for me to be in shorts and a tee shirt and quite to the fly’s liking, we spent a wee bit of time together as it warmed its wings.

They’re called friendly for a reason, you know.

A green anole (Anolis carolinensis) sunning on the patio fence (2009_01_09_004279)

Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) began leaving hibernation in the middle of December.  That worried me.  A winter that wasn’t much of a winter provided enough warmth for the lizards to seek heat and nourishment.  Only one of those commodities was in abundance.

The first anole I saw showed ribs through taught scales.  Others who followed worried me with the same presentation.

As December gave way to January and the springlike winter continued, more insects showed up and the anoles filled their skins a bit more until finally they looked healthy again.

And notice how this one has matched the paint color on the fence.  Chameleons change color to control body heat and to communicate.  Anoles, on the other hand, change color to control body heat, to communicate and to act as camouflage.  I’ve seen them match colors no chameleon could touch, and I’ve seen them do it with blazing speed and precision.

A Virginia opossum (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) eating cat food on the patio (2009_01_19_005240)

One of my neighbors enjoys the local Virginia opossums (a.k.a. possum; Didelphis virginiana) about as much as I do.  She told me one day that someone walked by and saw her snapping photos in the dead of night—photos apparently focused on something quite mundane: a tree.

She was taking pictures of a juvenile opossum who’d climbed the tree in response to an approaching dog.

I do love opossums, love their personalities, their singular claim to being a marsupial in North America, their gentle dispositions, their methodical approach to movement that keenly hides an ability to move rather quickly when the need arises.

Finding this one early one evening as it enjoyed some of the cat food on the patio made for a pleasant discovery.

A Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) standing on a gardening glove (2009_02_02_006025)

I absolutely adore Carolina wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus).  The busybodies of the bird world, they look like a bunch of Chatty Kathy dolls marching along beneath the shrubs as they gossip and bicker and jabber throughout their search for a bite to eat.

Like mockingbirds, they also lack the overwhelming fear of people that most species (should!) have.  I can’t begin to count the number of times one has perched on the fence next to me or hopped on my foot as it made its way across the patio.

A gardening glove that blew in during a powerful wind storm provided the perfect scale as this one bopped along in speckled sunlight between the fence and the photinias.  Not large at all, these wrens make up with attitude what they lack in size.  How delectably enjoyable!

4 thoughts on “From the living room to the back door”

  1. Stunning shots! Despite my efforts, I am still to get a good photo of a house sparrow or a mockingbird! Oh the Carolina wrens – too adorable! Both myself and my husband love them. Do you have winter wrens in your area? They are little hyperactive balls of energy – how can anything be so cute as these?

    I love the anole too. I have never seen these in the wild – I would really like to see them change color as you have described…

    Beautiful and sensitive descriptions too. You write so well, it touches my soul…

  2. Thank you both for your kind comments!

    We do indeed have winter wrens, Marie, but I’ve only been able to photograph them from great distance. Hopefully I’ll have that post up in the next day or two. They’re the smallest wren, you know–not that any wren is large. And they are hyperactive! What a great way to describe them.

  3. I have some catching up to do with you as I’ve missed some great posts.

    This one, in particular, is wonderful. I love your view on nature.

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