Tag Archives: Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Warmer and drier

It scant feels like December 15th.  Texas weather this season feels more like a struggle between spring and summer.  Yesterday’s high struck at 68° F/20° C, and today’s forecast high is 74° F/23° C.  Worse than the unseasonable warmth is the dearth of precipitation.  The last appreciable rain was in September when the remnants of Hurricane Hermine brought floods and tornadoes through the heart of the DFW Metroplex.  Since then?  A big fat lot of nothing.  Moderate drought has overtaken the region and has grown worse daily with frightening rapidity.

Fire Weather Watches and Red Flag Warnings continue unabated in meteorology discussions.  That Hermine came late in the growing season meant her deluges caused a last-minute growth spurt which promptly died in subsequent freezes and the lack of rain.  In no uncertain terms, the entire region is one vast pile of kindling waiting for a spark.  The U.S. Forestry Service has banned campfires in all national forests throughout Texas.  Burn bans cover more than half the state, and the drought map has more than three quarters of the state colored in various hues of dry.

Last winter we had snow storm after snow storm after snow storm after snow storm, not to mention a cataclysmic freeze that left behind scenes more appropriate to the Arctic than Dallas.  But this year is the polar opposite.  Pun intended.  Thus is the curse of La Niña around these parts: a warmer and drier winter.  Much warmer and much drier.

Before anyone gets an “I told you so!” attitude and points to these extremes as evidence of climate change, brace yourself: You’re wrong!  Disappointing though it might be, in terms of weather and climatology this winter, our lack of seasonal norms means nothing more than the predictable, oft repeated product of La Niña, a recurring oceanic pattern that, like her brother El Niño, comes and goes with nary a thought for anthropogenic climatic effects.  Having lived here forty years, I can tell you the no-show cold this season comes as no surprise.

I can also tell you that mild winters like this can mean good things in terms of wildlife.  The few killing freezes we’ve had coupled with the worsening drought will likely see fit to curtail next year’s mosquito population, yet the warmth also means creatures that normally would die out or hibernate instead continue to thrive as conditions permit.  Like this Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) found meandering about the patio one morning:

A Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) clinging to my finger (198_9811_hnd)

They live in the walls of my patio and garage.  And I’m thankful for them.  Coupled with the diurnal green anoles (a.k.a. Carolina anole; Anolis carolinensis) who also live in the walls, the nocturnal geckos complete the circle and provide me with round-the-clock insect control.  Rather than chemicals, I have natural protection from the various critters that would otherwise amass around my home.  (Not that I dislike arthropods, mind you; on the contrary, I adore them.  But some level of insect population control in subtropical climes is always a good thing lest home and hearth be overrun.)

Seeing active reptiles in winter is cool no matter how much I miss the Snow Miser’s touch.  And active reptiles need active insects, something I’m also grateful to see when the world is otherwise painted in earthen tones of slumber.  Though I might dislike La Niña’s effects in winter since I do love the cold, cognitive dissonance means I’m also thankful for her visit since it means enjoying glimpses of life that would otherwise be absent for the next few months.

Though I suggest no one light a fire in Texas for a while.  It wouldn’t be safe.  For any of us.

You’re in the wrong house, ma’am

I spied some little trinket of nature’s making and decided to go outside to snap a few photos.  I armed myself with the camera and a spare battery just in case, then I unlocked the front door and opened it.

To my surprise, something quite small and agile darted through the doorway, scampered over my sandaled foot, and disappeared beneath the love seat.  I failed to see it clearly due to its minuscule size and rapid pace.

Yet I had not been the only one to see it.  Normally drawn to the front door when opened due to its being used so infrequently, all five of The Kids stood at my feet watching me.  Their attention immediately fell to the floor when our visitor rushed in unannounced.

I pushed the door shut, placed the camera on the cat tree by my side, and turned my focus toward whatever hid beneath the furniture.

Oh, what a drama!

The invader was much smaller than a single breath.  Dark and stealthy, fast and frightened, it rested in safe shadows hoping to remain undiscovered and undisturbed.

I moved this and that out of the way, then I pulled the love seat away from the wall.  But I was not alone.

A handful of predacious felines remained so close that their whiskers tickled me at every turn.  Every nook and cranny exposed by my actions demanded immediate investigation by them.  Whatever shared our abode could not be in more danger. . .

Litter boxes and scratching posts pushed aside, I picked up the love seat and moved it some distance from the wall, perhaps an arm’s length.  Nothing.  Even as The Kids moved in and investigated, I stood bewildered and worried.

Some coaxing and petting drew away the killers long enough for me to move the furniture even further away from the wall.

Then I spied it!  A Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) so small that I feared any of the cats could swallow it in a single motion.

Before it could move, I reached down and enveloped it with my hand.

Who knew a closed fist still provided enough room for some creatures to run?  I didn’t, yet I could feel the tiny lizard rushing about looking for an exit.

I knew it wasn’t safe.  I knew its fear would drive it to leap away as soon as it could.  Photos would be impossible.  Still, I grabbed the camera and headed outside to release it.

The moment I opened my hand, it scurried across my skin, me turning my appendage rapidly to compensate.

Finally, it perched momentarily between thumb and knuckles.  I snapped the only picture I could take.

A very small Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) climbing over my hand

And then it was gone.  With one bold leap it flew away from me, landed on the patio fence, ran with utter abandon to the nearest wall, and disappeared around the corner.

I felt my job was done.

[btw, I assume it to be a female because many of these exotic lizards are parthenogenetic; I could be wrong, but it’s still a safe assumption; also, if you look at the larger size of that image, you’ll get a very good understanding of its size; it’s shorter than the length of my thumb (and I mean from tip of nose to tip of tail); this indeed was a young’un in every sense of the word]

I almost stepped on you

It would not have been pretty, but I nearly crushed a tiny Mediterranean gecko (a.k.a. house gecko; Hemidactylus turcicus) the other morning.  It was just outside the door when I stepped through it.  Had I not absently looked down just as I stepped outside, I probably wouldn’t have seen the little critter.  More disturbing is that I probably would have stepped on it since I tend to roam around the patio when there’s nothing to look at, and the small lizard was in a very bad position that put it directly in my path.  It would have been a very unlucky encounter I wouldn’t have known about until I was forced later to clean its remains off the bottom of my shoe and possibly the carpet.  Thankfully, I saw it before that happened.

A Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) on the patio (152_5278)

I’ve seen these geckos around here quite often.  They’re nocturnal, so I’ve not had an opportunity to take photos of them in decent light.  I usually see them crawling on the walls when I’m outside after dusk.  From time to time, I even see them hanging upside-down on the ceiling of the patio if I happen to look up at the right moment.

A Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) on the patio (152_5281)

As you can see, they’re colored just right to blend in when it’s dark.  Their coloring makes them rather difficult to see.  I’m sure I miss them more often than not if they don’t happen to move (which catches my attention) or if I don’t look at them directly.  It’s the latter that’s more common since they almost always freeze where they are when I walk out there.

A Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) on the patio (152_5290)

This one was so small and blended in so well with the color of the concrete—especially in the dim predawn light—that he was very hard to photograph.  If I used the flash, it washed the color out just enough to make him look like the cement floor.  If I didn’t use the flash, it was too dark to see it.

If you look closely at his tail (just about in the middle), you can see where it’s been torn off before and has regenerated.  Don’t we all wish we had that ability…

By the way, eventually I picked it up to try and get a better photo.  It didn’t work well since the flash brightened my skin color too much and made it difficult to see it, and without the flash, it was just too dark to get much detail.  Nonetheless, one of those photos came out well enough to give you an idea as to its size.  Did I already mention it was tiny?

A small Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) in my hand (153_5308)