A Lizard With a 3rd Eye, Floppy Gets Svelte, And a Wren Talks— and Talks: Nature Tales Continued

It’s time for more nature tales brought to you by the wild animals that live on our property and entertain us continually by doing what comes naturally.

Let’s start with a very pregnant Floppy. This is what she looked like last week when she was grabbing a snack. I’d meant to catch her with a mouth full of oak leaves, but she’s fast when it comes to scarfing down food. It seems that the twigs sticking out of her mouth were dessert. She waddled off searching for more.
Here she is on Monday! Notice the difference! Our very pregnant deer had become svelte! She has had her fawn, or fawns. Don’t expect to see it for a couple of weeks, however. It is carefully hidden away in our canyon. Babies are born virtually odor-free so predators can’t smell them. Ask a coyote. They also know how to freeze in place. I’ll do one of those ‘cute’ posts if and when Floppy brings her fawn or twins around.

Our property is a regular herpetarium. We have wall to wall lizards ranging in size from tiny babies that have hit the ground running up to foot-long alligator lizards that can scare the heck out of you. We also have skinks, beautifully iridescent lizards with bright blue tails.

Fence lizards dominate, however. You can’t go outside without seeing dozens at this time of the year. They are fun to watch as they scamper across our yard in search of bugs. And they are even more entertaining when they try to impress another lizard by doing push-ups and puffing up their bodies to almost twice their normal size.

They are also quite curious. Or at least they seem to be. Anytime I am outside working around the house, they show up and watch me, often choosing a high perch for a better view. If I do something that chases them away, they’re back in a minute or two. The fellow below came out to watch me when I was building a brick planter around our yellow rose bush earlier this week.

I was curious about the white spot on the back of its head and did some research. I learned that it is called the parietal or third eye. While the lizard can’t ‘see’ out of the eye, it is light sensitive. When a hawk flies over, it skedaddles! A kid’s hand poised to catch it has the same result. The eye is connected to the pineal gland and helps control circadian and seasonal rhythms.

I think we have seen all of one wren since Peggy and I moved here. But a couple of weeks ago, a pair showed up looking for a home. It was pretty funny. The male wren, it turns out, is responsible for house hunting and nest building. The location may be a tree cavity, a birdhouse, a drain pipe, etc. Even an old shoe will do in a pinch. Once he finds what he considers the ideal site, he fills it with twigs and invites his lady love over to check it out. She’s the one that makes the ultimate decision about his nest finding abilities. I can see where she might be concerned if he has picked an old shoe. The poor guy may find himself building 3 or 4 nests before she finally says yes. 

I think ours must have been on number four— or maybe five— when he showed her our bird house. He seemed very eager, or maybe he was nervous, like a real estate agent about to close or lose a big sale. He talked and talked and talked. Finally, she hopped in to take a look. And immediately hopped out with a feather in her mouth that she spit out. I could almost hear the discussion. “You are trying to sell me a used house!” “No, no sweetie. Think of it as an already feathered nest.” Whatever he said, she went back inside and came out with another feather. This time she ate it! Apparently that meant yes because the little guy started hopping around and talking twice as fast. Then he zoomed off to pick up some grass to add to the nest. Soon, they were both busy at work.

Here’s the new home. BTW, the fence you can see in the background was what the fox was climbing up.
The female pokes her head out to take a break from sitting on the eggs.
And the male drops by to visit with a typical wren tail flip. Soon he will be busy helping with feeding responsibilities.
Peggy put this unique bird house on top of one of the 10-foots posts surrounding our garden. She thought of it as a decoration…
But a pair of tree swallows thought otherwise! Now, Peggy is scolded any time she works in her garden. I could watch these birds forever as they perform their incredible aerial acrobatics. They arrive here in March and will leave once their babies can fly. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

I’ll close today with a few more photos of the deer herd. Do you remember when I did the post on young buck and his fearless leaps over a wall and a fence to get at our honeysuckle and native shrub garden? Well, it turns out he isn’t so young…

You have to have some years behind you to grow a rack like this. He will be at least a three pointer and possibly a four pointer. If you have ever had the feeling that someone or something is watching you…
Here he is under the madrone in our backyard. His antlers will be in velvet and continue to grow for at least a couple more months. The rounded knobs suggest that each of the top four antlers may split again. If so, he could be a five pointer!
The bucks hang out together at this time of the year. While the older fellow stretched out beneath the madrone, the kid stopped for a drink of water in the bird bath. He also had a message…
Be sure stop and smell the flowers.

Tomorrow’s post: Who knows? Not me. (grin)