Category Archives: Critters

Mystery Muncher

Something (or someone, depending on how anthropomorphic you want to be) left a mess out at the edge of the back yard.

There’s a chair that I leave there, right on the other side of the sidewalk from where yesterday’s picture was taken, and on the next day there was a pile of debris there.

Not that a pile like this is necessarily unexpected given the critters that live about, but it is notable in that it’s the first time I’ve seen it in the 2+ years we’ve lived here. So, something new is happening, and that could be a clue to the week’s mystery.

Lots of pine trees here, and lots of pine cone detritus on the sidewalk. Who could our new suspect be?

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HemiDemiSemiGodzilla

Back at the driveway…

This is the “driveway big guy.” (For those who have lost track, there’s a “big guy” by the driveway, one over by the front door, a clutch of new hatchlings in the bushes between the driveway and the front door, and a clutch of new hatchlings by the mailbox. I think. And then there are the backyard lizards, including those in the north, those in the south, and those in the trees.)

I’m told they’re territorial – not sure if they’ll kill each other for territory, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

Given the location (this is right by where the bushes are that lead off to the front door to the right, the place where the first new clutch of baby lizards showed up) this might be a parent of that clutch.

Either way, this seems to be a prime spot. If it’s cool, this big guy is out in the sun, with shelter under the car just inches away and the bushes just a couple of feet more. If it’s really hot, he can retreat to the edge of the shade, still catch plenty of heat from the whole driveway heating up, but not get fried by the direct rays.

He’s pretty calm so long as I don’t spook him, will let me get within a couple of feet. Blow up the picture to full sized (click on it), look at the gorgeous blue & green scales mixed in with all of the brown and tan scales, particularly on his tail.

I don’t know how big this guy or his kin can get, although we obviously know that some species in the area can get MUCH bigger. Being Godzilla kin but much smaller, I think this guy is more of a Hemidemisemigodzilla. But as long as he watches out for hawks and doesn’t sit under that tire for shelter when I have to use the car (I check before I pull out, but still…) he might make Demisemigodzilla in a year or two!

 

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Mailbox Lizards

I believe we may have a new batch of lizards!

I’ve never seen any yard lizards down by the street or the mailbox, at least not before today.

But when I went to bring up the empty trash bins from the curb, I was surprised to see at least three of these tiny guys scooting off into the flowers surrounding the mail box.

I waited for a while to see if they would come back out – only this one did, and he was deeply suspicious of my intentions.

He’s a different color, so I’m thinking there’s a new clutch of eggs from some neighbor lizard that’s moving in on our territory.

Let the Lizard Wars of 2020 begin!

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Twin Tree Lizards

I saw the big tree lizard out gathering some sun.

At this point I’m just at the edge of the porch, maybe fifteen to twenty feet away with a telephoto lens.

Two small steps forward, slowly, I don’t want to spook him. Another half step…

…wait, what’s that on the left that just moved?
I had failed to #FindThatLizard. There had been an assumption on my part, which was incorrect.

This guy was off on the left, ready to bolt.

The first guy was still holding steady on the right, but my guess is that a quick getaway wouldn’t be long in coming if I twitched.

Y’all are good – enjoy the afternoon sun and watch out for those crows. I’ll back away slowly and let you have the yard.

 

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Mourning Dove Morning

The mourning dove, sometimes known as a turtle dove, is pretty common just about anywhere in the US.

They’re incredibly common around here, unlike my mysterious Black Phoebe or the heard-but-never-seen Northern Bobwhite Quail.

I love hearing their calls in the morning, and I usually see them on the wires out front, occasionally in a tree.

This one leapt out at me because, to the best of my recollection (and I’m pretty good about noticing and remembering little details like this), this is the first time I’ve ever seen one down on the ground feeding, and it’s definitely the first time I’ve seen one in the back yard where it’s normally hip deep in finches and mockingbirds.

Timing is everything, I guess.

Wait – cheese it, he’s seen us! Run for your life before it attacks, these things are viscous!!

(No, that’s not a typo. It’s cheap, late, late Saturday night humor.)

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Lizard Right Outside The Front Door

I think this may be the same big guy who was on the grass the other day when it was REALLY hot.

It’s hard to tell with the high contrast setting he’s chosen (wisely) to hid himself in. Bright sunlight was right there, but inches away were shadows and the bushes to hide under and in if threatened.

In retrospect, I’m amazed that he didn’t take off like a bat out of hell the second I opened the front door. This spot is only about five feet away from the porch mat, not even social distancing!

This close up the depth of field on the photo sucks, but I do love seeing the texture and spines on his scales where it is in focus, as well as those long, agile toes.

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Yet Another Baby Lizard

Between the pandemic, quarantine, working from home, and all of that, as I’ve noted before, there are a limited number of things to take pictures of or write about. Unless of course you want me to start ranting about politics, idiots, evil GOP Death Cults, or how QAnon folk need to be rounded up and given massive amounts of psychological help. And those topics, accompanied by massive amounts of swearing, are what Twitter is for!

This guy is bigger than some, smaller than others, but it’s his coloration and tail that make him easily identifiable among the dozen or so scurrying about the front sidewalk.

He’s a tan or khaki color, which I haven’t seen before.

His tail is also shorter and thicker than normal – compare it to some of the others from a couple days ago.

Like most of these new guys, he’s extremely skittish. Try to take a half step closer and he’s already 2/3 of the way under that bush. I’ll never catch him under there!

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Mama Or Papa Lizard On The Grass

This is probably the same (potentially) Mama or Papa Lizard that we saw on Saturday. It would be so much easier if they would wear name tags…

Same spot, over by the driveway and the bushes by the front door that all of the micro lizards are hanging out in. Well, those that are still alive.

What was strange was that it (he? she?) was on the grass, propped up like this. That’s a first, I’ve never seen one of them out on the grass except to possibly scurry across it toward the bushes or a tree for safety.

Especially because of the way it’s using all of those splayed out, long toes to stay up on top of the grass, I suspect this was because it was 117° F (and we know what the “F” stands for!) degrees.

They like the sun, but let’s get real. There are limits!!

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Baby Lizards Getting Sun

There’s plenty of sun to be gotten – it was fortunately only up to about 102° today. I practically need a sweatshirt.

Out in the front yard, two of the new baby lizards were working on their tans.

This guy couldn’t decide if I was threatening enough to cause him to give up this toasty, warm spot.

He eventually spun around to face the bushes so he could make a quick escape if he had to, but I, of course, let him be.

This tinier guy was right outside the front door and spooked as soon as I opened it.

I didn’t move other than to close the door behind me (an A/C 76° inside, a lizard-friendly 100+° outside, you do the math) and take pictures.

That was okay for a minute, but as soon as I tried to lean down to get closer or squat to get to his level, he went from zero to Warp Factor 8 in about two seconds.

Probably a good move – I’ve seen the remnants of at least two of his siblings out there already. Between the crows, hawks, mockingbirds, and whatever omnivorous predators are on the prowl, there are slow lizards and there are old lizards, but there are no old, slow lizards.

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Mystery Critter

First of all, it’s ***HOT*** here in SoCal.

Our “Accurite” porch thermometer said it was 112° about 14:00, and the WeatherUnderground app said that it hit 117° a little later. At the official National Weather Service station at Pierce College (about five miles away, you can see it in that view from our back yard off to the east) they recorded the highest temperature ever in this part of the country:

And of course, there are new brush fires, including one started by a bunch of freaking idiots having a “gender reveal” party involving some sort “smoke generating pyrotechnic device.” (Currently 7,000+ acres burned from that one.)

So a few minutes ago I went out into the back yard to see how bad the smoke is here. Even though the nearest fire is 50+ miles away, there are some BIG fires and there are fires that have already been going on for weeks, so pretty much the whole state is covered in smoke.

It’ still 92° out there at 22:00, which is a little disconcerting. You can smell the smoke, although it’s not super strong or choking. The sky is covered, with the only thing visible being Jupiter, and it only faintly visible and blood red through the smoke. THAT is weird looking!

About half way back into the house I became aware that there was a critter sitting next to the sidewalk. First thought was maybe a rabbit, since we’re lousy with them, but it didn’t bolt and I couldn’t see the ears. It was about the size of a lap dog like a Pomeranian, low to the ground, shaggy. rounded and stocky.

I took another step without thinking and was surprised that it didn’t run off. My second thought was that it might be the neighbor’s little yappy dog, about the right size, but it didn’t move or bark or make any sound at all.

I stopped, pulled out my phone and was trying to get the flashlight function turned on when the critter moved away. It didn’t run away, just meandered off toward the bushes. Definitely not a rabbit, moved more like a slowly trotting dog. Not like an opossum or cat or raccoon – we’ve seen plenty of those around. I caught the faintest whiff of a musky scent and thought for a second it was a skunk, but it didn’t move like a skunk. (We’ve seen plenty of those around the old house!) What the hell was it?

Being an idiot, once I got the phone’s flashlight function on, I went around onto the porch and went looking for it. I found it immediately and stopped.  It had its back to me and a big, bushy tail raised. So it’s a skunk that walks funny?

Well, maybe. I only saw it for a couple seconds before it wandered off around the corner of the house, but it still didn’t look like a skunk. (It didn’t look like anything else that I’ve seen before either.) The skunks I’ve seen are black with white markings – this thing was medium grey, not white markings, just a lighter color, almost tan, underneath the tail. And it moved and looked more like a badger or porcupine, but they’re not found around here at all.

A juvenile raccoon of some sort? Maybe, we’ve definitely got them around. But the shape and the movement were wrong.

Some different type of skunk that I’ve never seen before? Maybe. After the second encounter I again smelled a faint whiff of a musky odor, but not necessarily “skunky.” And it did have that tail raised up like that…

Someone’s Persian or longhair cat that’s acting really weird and critter like? Again, maybe. But in my experience, stray cats will either act like, “Human! Food! I’m lost and starving and I’ll be cute for you if you have tuna!” or they’ll run like hell and be over the fence in a flash.

So it will remain a mystery for the moment. Perhaps I should be grateful I’m not showering in tomato juice right now.

Or perhaps I should get my trailcam and set it up out there again.

It just might be E.T..

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