This is Blanca – an almost completely white skunk who visited our patio. It is the night camera so the image is blurry despite trying to sharpen it. Every part of her was white apart from her face and the tips of her feet. She’s the sort of special animal that inspires folklore. We have been worried that our night critters have stopped visiting since we dismantled our deck but they still come for the water bowls.
There was another skunk visiting the same night and it had the more familiar coloring. They are such lovely little animals – they delicately sip at the water. I haven’t heard their main predator of late – the Great Horned Owl but they can quickly disappear into the reserve.
How many babies is this poor Mama Possum carrying??? Her tummy is scraping the patio and I would imagine we now have at least 20 babies (18-25 babies per litter). The Mama only has 13 teats, so it is survival of the fittest. She will carry them on her back, for safety. My friend offered one (with babies on board) some dog treats on a late night walk. The possum gratefully accepted.
This is a juvenile possum that visited the same night – it may be an older baby of the Mama who visited. They weigh between 4 and 11 lbs. and are 2 – 3 feet in length (not including their magnificent tails). They live with their mother for about a year. I was so happy to see that all of the animals who visited drank from the water bowl.
Finally – a not blurry shot of one of our Floofs! This is a female Eastern Grey Squirrel. After our deck was dismantled, the “Tails” left and the “Floofs” moved in. This family group have beautiful fur and distinct white dots behind their ears. Their feet have a distinctive blueish tinge. Their tails seem to remain intact…
One of these little rascals had me in stitches last week. Her family were on the patio eating peanuts but she decided to have a mad half hour under one of our bushes. She was on her back, ‘killing’ the lowest branches of the bush with her front and back paws. much like a kitty cat. She went around in dizzying circles until she scrambled her brains and went to eat a peanut.
Then I spotted two tiny sibling squirrels playing in Katniss’s house (our old stray cat). They were play-fighting, nibbling and cuddling. So much pleasure in one little garden. The Swallowtail butterflies have started to emerge, brightening the gardens with a splash of yellow and brown.
There were so many lovely comments about my last post, The Owl and the Pussycat… that I hunted on Youtube for videos of skunk sounds. Then I was perplexed – it didn’t sound like our noisy night visitors. Did our skunks speak in Spanish or had we developed a special language? Eventually I started researching all the other critters that live with us. Possums can hiss but don’t say very much. Skunks in the wild rarely talk at all. Raccoons have a very distinctive chatter – most of it is swear words. One of my neighbors is scared of raccoons, they are pretty feisty. I came to the rescue and chased the raccoon up a tree where he sat swearing at me (I think Puta was in there…)
What on earth was it? Light bulb moment! It is our little armed ones – Armadillos! What a wonderful surprise. Here is a link to a short video of their distinctive chirrup.
Can you imagine that little noise, all night long, from our extended Latin American immigrants? They wake up about 7 pm and start chirruping, ‘Bee Bee?” Teddy responds, “Beeee Beep?” and on it goes. Then I started reading about them. They like to dig burrows and they are all still under the deck including a new one. Curiously, they are happy to share their tunnels with skunks, possums and whoever else is there. Happy hippy commune, man! They aren’t predated by the Great Horned Owl but presumably they were all cuddled under the deck with skunks. Maybe their chirping was meant to be reassuring? They have very few predators and can live from 9 to 23 years. That probably means that we have lived with the same extended family for the last 13 years. Mami, Papi, Abuelita, Mijos – no wonder they talk with us. We are THEIR people; not the other way around!
Even better, they are insectivores and LOVE fire ants. Now I love my little armed ones with a passion… For some reason fire ants love to bite me. You are innocently gardening when one and then one hundred fire ants run up your leg, biting as they go. Your only recourse is to run to the outside faucet and rinse them all off. Then you get some lidocaine because it bloody hurts! Armadillos are funny looking little creatures but harmless unless you eat them undercooked (yes, people are hungry in Central America). Then you can contract leprosy from them – how weird is that? We would start naming them but Teddy counted about 50 one night, all communicating with each other. Imagine a busy barrio in Mexico.
Some years ago, Teddy got this wonderful little video of some baby armadillos snuffling about in the undergrowth looking for insects. They were silent and when I have seen them in our garden they went straight under the deck – they didn’t seem scared though and now I know why. It was their female person.
As most of you know, we now have an outside feral cat – Katniss (picture below). We have a large deck which she uses most of the year with all the other critters but Winter Storm Helena is bringing a hard frost. I need to interject – why do we name every stupid storm? Back in the old days it was just bad weather. As usual, Houston is reacting as though winterpocalypse had arrived. To be fair, homeless people and critters are going to struggle over the next couple of days. What to do?
I checked out cat houses on Amazon and we could certainly get one eventually. In the meantime, I created a nest with an old cat crate covered in a tarp for hurricanes. It is off the deck to feel safer and there is a clean fleecy blanket in there with a catnip toy. Then I went to the supermarket to look for a hot water bottle – the assistant looked at me as though I came out of the Ark. “I don’t think they make them anymore”. Kerry Macgyver thought about it and created this.
glass bottle filled with hot water
Wrapped in two old t-shirts
I threw out some 10 year old Pimms (British drink) and filled it with hot water, sealed with the love of my life – duct tape. Then I rolled it in two of Teddy’s old t-shirts and put it under the blanket.
Katniss, the feral cat
I doubt very much if Princess Katniss will use this shelter but perhaps there will be a warm family of possums? One of my neighbors kindly allows Katniss to sleep on their covered porch which is warm from the house, so she has some options. A few days ago, I spotted her waiting for breakfast in the corner of the garden. She suddenly looked behind her, clearly askance but not terrified, into the reserve. To my astonishment, two fat possums (Betsy and Peggy Sue?) came thundering out aiming directly for our deck. It was 8 am so they were late going to bed (under our deck) but they had been digging for grubs by the looks of their snouts. It looked like the scene in the film Fifth Element where the elephantine aliens came thundering out of the pyramid. I burst out laughing and went out to reassure Katniss.
She ran off (to return at a later time) and I startled Possum # 3 – the baby who had been following the other two. I saw him sleeping on the flowerbed a couple of hours later and entreated him gently to go under the deck to sleep with his family. He seemed to understand and went to bed like all good little critters should.
Thank you to Wikipedia for the links – what did we do before Google??
No need to comment about our love of alcohol, with the bottle and 6 pack door… 😆
After the Vandals in the Suburbs, we put the infrared camera out at night to see who our visitors were. This time it was Patsy Sue, the Possum! I am certain that the previous marauders on the porch were raccoons because Possums are gentle little critters – the only marsupial in America. Possums eat very slowly and noisily, with their mouths open (see the video at the bottom). In my mind, they are southern folks, so Patsy’s Mama was Betsy Sue and she was a big girl! Last year we caught her on camera, walloping the baby raccoons who were too boisterous. Was Mama Raccoon a Hoochie-Mama, out on the town meeting new guys?
The squirrels are all Hispanic because they are fast and talk very quickly. We had a Mario for a while until we realized it was a Marisol with swollen teats. Possums carry their little babies on their body, clinging onto the fur. My friend came across one at night and a Mama Possum covered in babies gratefully accepted some dog treats that she had in her pocket. You can’t really see Patsy that well because of the Infrared film but this is another one that was on the rooftop opposite Teddy’s work.
This one is also a juvenile and look at that little face. Soooo cute, holding her stick! We sent my cousin in Canada a toy,stuffed Possum for a Christmas present and they wondered why we had sent a rat… They just have ratty tails but the funniest little feet.