Friday, August 21, 2009


A few nights ago I heard a ruckus on the bedroom patio and opened my eyes to see a giant rat! Well, it wasn't exactly a rat, but it certainly looked like one. Until that night, I had never seen an opossum. I'd heard of them, read about them, but never actually seen one. This little fella backed up a bit from the door when he saw me moving around. He didn't seem interested in the corn or sunflower seeds on the back porch. He was munching on the apple chunks I set out on the table for the mama raccoon and her babies.

Opossums are plentiful in Texas, and they do look like rats. They only come out at night and they prefer to live in dark, enclosed places. Sometimes, they even build their homes underground! They tend to live alone, but have also been known to live in small family groups.

The pictures I've seen of opossums show them hanging upside down from tree limbs by their tails. These pictures always reminded me a bit of bats. Apparently, the adults rarely hang from their tails. It's more of a childhood act. This makes sense when you see how big an opossum really is! The tail just isn't strong enough to hold the weight. They use it more like another hand when climbing trees, or to carry twigs and such when building nests. They can get to be quite large. There is a similar animal in Australia called a possum, which tends to be a bit smaller.

If they feel threatened, opossums make a deep growling sound. If the threat continues, and their fear increases, the sound grows to a high-pitched screech. When the boys are looking for girlfriends, they make a clicking sound with their mouth, and when they find a mate, the female makes a clicking sound in return.

Opossums eat bugs, birds, snakes and mice, but they also love fruit, which explains why I found one on my back porch. He certainly seemed to be enjoying the apple pieces. The raccoon did come by about an hour later, but she had plenty to eat because the squirrels had left some corn and sunflower seeds from the day before.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bird Baths and Bats

Yesterday afternoon we had a warm, soft rain that seemed to last forever. As my husband and I stood in garage gazing out at the mist rising up from the ground, we noticed a mourning dove sitting on a nearby branch. She was doing something rather odd with her wings and it took us a few minutes to realize why she was lifting them in the air. First, she lifted one wing and let the rain drip down onto her body. She pointed the wing straight up into the air, as if she stretched out an arm, then she slowly lowered it to her side. Then she lifted the other wing and let the warm, soft rain drip onto her body. As we watched her, we gradually realized that she was taking a shower! This glorious, gray bird was bathing in the rain! She stayed on the branch, pointing and stretching, until the rain stopped. It was a wonderful thing to watch this precious creature enjoying God's gift of rain.

Late last night I heard a banging sound against the window. At first, it was so loud it frightened me, then it calmed to a mild fluttering sound. I slowly raised the shade on our large picture window and found a small, brown bat sitting on the window sill. It was fluttering its wings at the window glass. I'm not sure if it was confused, or if it was attracted by the light. After awhile, it flew into the bush. Niblet, my large black attack cat sat at the window growling deep within his throat, but the bat didn't seem to be particularly intimidated by the sound. He stayed in the bush, watching us through the glass. I finally lowered the shade and went to sleep. I didn't hear him banging on the window again, but Niblet stayed at the window for a long time.

It was a rather cool morning after all the rain last night, but I noticed it was still very dry beneath the tree in our front yard so I turned on the sprinkler very low. Sure enough, a flock of small, brown birds landed nearby and hopped in and out of the water. After awhile all their splashing formed a small pool on the nearby sidewalk and one of the birds landed in the pool and sat in the water, enjoying her own private bath.

One of the tiniest baby lizards ran across the front ledge this morning while I was cleaning out one of the ponds. I stopped to speak to it, and the lizard also stopped and cocked its head to the side. I don't know why, but this seems to happen often with lizards. They run if I have the dogs with me, but if I am alone and speaking to them in a soft voice, they pause and turn their heads as if listening to my words. I think they must like the sound.

I am out of squirrel corn so the squirrels have been raiding the corn from the bird dishes. The birds don't seem to mind sharing. They will eat around each other as long as they don't get too close. However, there are large, blue birds with gray heads that have made an appearance in our yard this year and these birds are a little more aggressive. They also eat the corn from the cob holders in the trees and I have seen them chasing the squirrels away. They just don't like to share!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Cooling the Belly

My computer is in the shop, but God's little creatures are still keeping me entertained. I was sitting on my bed a few days ago, folding socks, when I had the oddest feeling that someone was watching me. I looked out the glass bedroom door and sure enough, there was a little squirrel lying on his belly, looking back at me. The funny thing was, he was lying in the water dish! This precious little fella had his arms and legs draped over the side and his chin resting on a pile of sunflower seeds while he cooled his belly in the water dish. I've seen squirrels lying on their belly on tree branches. In fact, they do this often. But I have never seen a squirrel lying on its belly in the water dish. I plan to buy some clay pot trays tomorrow and put water in them to see if the squirrels want a squirrel bath.

The lizard who lives by the back door has grown larger. I've watched him very closely since this spring and he is one of the larger ones around the house. I've seen good-sized lizards scampering about the property, but we usually have anoles and baby lizards around the house. We are still swarming with baby lizards!

My husband found a baby lizard in the laundry room a few days ago. He brought it in to show me and in one of my more brilliant moments, I suggested he open his hand a bit wider so I could take a picture. The lizard took a flying leap--about four feet--then scampered beneath the bed. We tried to coax it out, then finally gave up. I am certain it is sleeping on my pillows at night. I just know it.

I found another scorpion climbing the wood paneling in the living room last night. I wish their sting wasn't so painful, and dangerous for those with allergies, because they really are amazing creatures. They are flat, so they can slide in, around, and through just about anything, and they have the most amazing climbing abilities. I don't mind finding them on the walls as much as I mind stepping on them, or having them drop down from the ceiling. When we first moved here, my husband drove out ahead of time to get the house ready, and one night, as he lay in the bedroom drifting off to sleep, a scorpion dropped on his head. I haven't had this experience, personally, and I'm not looking forward to it. I suppose this should be expected, though, considering our house backs up to a forest.

We must have had more than one nest of cardinals hatch this spring because we have so many teenagers, both male and female, whose gray feathers are turning red. Like all teenagers, they look a bit awkward. I am certain they were hatched around here, too, because they seem to know my routine and are not particularly shy when I walk outside to fill the food dishes. They hop up onto low, nearby branches, waiting patiently for me to feed them. I love the thought that they are so happy living here.