June 15th is Nature Photography Day
Anyone can take beautiful, stunning outdoor photos with today’s smartphone cameras! Use Nature Photography Day as an excuse to get outside and snap some photos while walking the dog in the park, lazing at the beach, or enjoying a local trail.
In my neighborhood in the Texas Hill Country, we see a variety of crawling creatures and beautiful birds. Armadillos, roadrunners – even tarantulas, and (shudder) snakes.
Some of my favorite visitors are the small lizards (or geckos). Seen most are the Green Anole, Six-Lined Racerunner, and the Mediterranean Gecko (or House Gecko). These critters are harmless, and we like having them around. Most of the time, they prefer cool, shaded areas and will squeeze under doors to get into the garage for shelter. The smaller and more transparent House Gecko is appropriately named: they love to find ways to sneak into the house! The Texas Spiny Lizard (commonly known as the Fence Lizard) would rather sun themselves on, of course, a fence post.
Observing the antics of a gutsy squirrel has been our nature entertainment for the past couple of years. This unwelcomed guest endlessly attempted to reach our birdfeeder with Cirque Soleil moves, only to abandon the acrobatics for eating seed droppings on the ground.
Our German Shepherd mix, Zoey, stirs up all sorts of drama when catching sight of her nemesis! Because the birdfeeder is visible from our large living room window, she can easily see when the intruder enters her backyard. When she spies him, it is a wild Fred Flinstone run from the window, around the oversized sectional couch to the back door, barking all the way. The furry neighbor has skedaddled by the time Zoey is let out.
There have been rare instances when I have seen the squirrel before Zoey. Quietly I would step to the backdoor and whisper, “Squirrel!” as I opened it. Faster than Santa down the chimney, Zoey was through the door to catch him! It would take seconds, but chaos ensued as the squirrel made a mad dash along the top of the fence, with Zoey running alongside. Even after the squirrel raced up the tree next to the house, she never gave up, sitting expectantly as he loudly chattered his frustration!
Things changed one morning a month ago when my son, who walks Zoey, told me there was a dead squirrel in the street in front of our house. We didn’t see our feisty neighbor anymore after that.
Our neighborhood has many native Texas oak trees, bringing much-needed shade and beauty. And of course, that provides habitat for the community squirrels. A couple houses away from us is a large oak tree where another squirrel resides. This rounder, fluffier rodent was routinely chased away from our yard by our prior alpha squirrel. However, “Mr. Fluffy” seemed to have figured out that this previously unattainable territory was now up for grabs.
One morning, my husband and I observed Mr. Fluffy cautiously appear on the fence by the feeder. He hesitated for a few moments (no doubt expecting to be run off), then scampered back into hiding. Again he appeared, then disappeared. This dance went on for about 30 minutes. Finally, he summoned up enough courage to claim the bird feeder as his own. Mr. Fluffy tried to stretch his thick body down to the feeder but failed. As he thought about his next move, I snapped this photo.
But that isn’t the end of the story. When this Texas-sized squirrel decided he was in the clear, ANOTHER squirrel approached from the opposite direction! The thin, scrappy-looking adolescent was not intimidated by Mr. Fluffy. Facing off toward him, Mr. Fluffy, surprised and no doubt disappointed, took off down the fence to his home tree. Since that confrontation, we haven’t seen either these or any other squirrels attempt to claim our bird feeder!
I am not sure what it means when one is content to watch animal antics in nature. Is it a natural part of getting older? Is it because life slows down enough to give opportunities for simple enjoyment? Our Zoey is eight years old and considered a senior in dog years. But future squirrels, watch out – she still has the spunk and speed to chase down any squirrel intruder in HER yard.