Nine banded Armadillo
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.
Well, it’s not really a pussycat but Pepe Le Pew thought that he was a black and white cat. So the correct title of this post is The Owl and the Skunks. I don’t know how many of you have been lucky enough to see a Great Horned Owl but they are massive. They stand as tall as a toddler and have a wingspan of up to 5 feet.
For months we have been hearing a very distinctive ‘Whoo Whoo’ and I was so excited when I realized it was a Great Horned Owl. The sound is very deep and you can tell that the creature has large lungs. I started researching this wonderful bird and discovered that one of his favorite snacks is SKUNKS!!! He has really large eyes and ears but very little sense of smell. I adore my little skunks that live in the reserve and play under my deck, so I was sad to find out that they had a predator that was immune to their scent. Then I thought about baby Great Horned Owls – I guess it’s just the circle of life…sobbing.
On the plus side we have a brand new deck for skunks, armadillos, possums, raccoons, wood rats, snakes and feral cats to hide under. One night Teddy and I went to bed, really early as always, only to sleep fitfully through a night of deafening WHOO WHOO! Mr. Horned Eagle was sitting on our fence or the trees in the reserve which is just a few feet from the bedroom. Underneath that noise was the frantic sound of little skunks chattering nervously underneath the deck.
Aren’t they adorable little twins??
It reminded me of the Pixar short movie about the toys, Tin Toy, that were all hiding under the bed, terrified of the giant baby. If I hadn’t been so sleepy I would have gone out to tell him to keep the bloody noise down. Well… this is a happy ever after story. The skunks survived and the Great Horned Owl has decided to move on to a deck free habitat. Teddy snapped a shot of one in Florida and couldn’t believe how big it was as it flew over him. This is a link to the Great Horned Owl Wikipedia page. One description of its call is “You still up, me too”. This article noted that some people regarded it as solemn and terrifying. Really? It’s just a giant owl!
On a final note, only stupid people have skunks as pets, with their scent organ removed (the only exception would be a rescue). Skunks belong in the wild where they are the gardener’s friend. They busily till the soil while eating bugs and larvae.
One of the best aspects of the Hacienda Escondida, where I stayed in at Puerto Vallarta, was that it was a short distance from the river leading down to the beach. My zodiac sign is Cancer and despite my fear of deep water/small boats, I just need to be around water. Ponds, rivers, lakes or the sea – they all make me happy. The first morning, I got up early and wandered up to the bridge crossing the river. It was too early for tourists so I met many of the local people coming from the hillside down into the town to open shops and start work. On the first trip, I felt there was a distance between the locals and tourists but perhaps it was all in my panic stricken head. I greeted everyone I met with Buenos Dias and received such smiles and responses. In Texas I live in a town that attracts tourists and sometimes we get irritated with their presence but they bring in tax dollars…
Puerto Vallarta is flooded with natural beauty and it seems to encourage marvelous creativity. The outhouses above were located on the river bank. I liked this Maya/Aztec mural on a riverside building?
Maya Mural and dog
It was blissfully quiet early in the morning and enjoyed having most of the river to myself, with a few friends.
Egret on rock, heron in water
I guess they were lucky that the cat was looking for smaller prey.
Eventually I reached another road bridge where I admired this lovely cafe which was serving breakfast.
I finally reached a culvert at the end of the river and there was a mermaid!
I am struggling to write and read just now. Many apologies to all my wonderful followers and those I follow for being absent. I have talked about my chronic anxiety and depression many times so no need for any further explanation. Between sad bouts, I experience moments of great happiness, for which I am thankful or life would not be worth living. These are some of my recent moments.
Close up of mountain laurel blossom
My lovely neighbor with green fingers gifted me this tree a couple of years ago because it wouldn’t thrive in her garden. I was very anxious because my fingers are not green (blackish) and then this year we had flood, excessive heat and finally a terrible cold snap. Some of my tropical plants died but the lovely Laurel has new growth and exquisite lavender flowers. They have an intense fragrance which my neighbor could smell as she approached my house. I now just buy plants and ask my gardener to place them in the right spot – it is working, so far…
The Dead Grasshopper
This poor little green person probably did not survive the hard frost and fell out of our house planks. He was perfectly preserved and so green. Normally these noisy critters frighten me because of how they jump but I do like their songs. It was fun to really examine his little body and hold it. There truly is beauty in death. After I took his photograph, I left it on the rock. When I went outside later, some lucky bird had eaten a freeze dried snack. I wonder if she thought, “they are usually juicier than that?”
The Tulle Filled Nest
Romantic front door
This is a photograph of my front door decorated for Valentine’s Day. My Mountain Laurel neighbor loves to decorate her presents with ribbons and tulle – almost too nice to open. I keep them to use myself and had created a bow with pink and white tulle sitting atop the beads. We had a windy day and suddenly the bow was gone. A squirrel or bird probably has a pink tulle lined crib and I just smile at the thought. Maybe they also had the freeze dried snack…
The Syrian limo driver
During my recent contract work, I was paired with a Syrian-American limo driver. He was courteous, respectful, articulate and charming. You probably expect me to say something about executive orders and how nice Middle Eastern people are but the truth is he was Cougar Eye Candy. I am purring softly as I write this. He was tall, slim and handsome with dark hair, white skin and the most exquisite grey/green/blue eyes with long black eyelashes. I flirted outrageously in Arabic and English, wondering what I would have done with him were I 30 years younger…
The Spanish Translation
In a previous post, I talked about the coffee barista from Jerusalem who is Muslim. He works at my local Argentinean/Venezuelan Café. Those two sentences somehow encapsulate the interesting diversity of Houston. This week I went in for my usual cappuccino and he was serving on his own. The lady in front of me could only speak Spanish and although coffee guy looks Hispanic, he can’t speak it. I offered to translate and I think I got three beef empanadas correct. The lady looked Latino/Indio and was utterly confused by the blonde Texan lady translating to the ‘Spanish’ guy. It’s a wonderful world.
More happy moments to come…
Isn’t he handsome – a perfect choice for Khaleesi! He was a few feet long and gorging on the Tamarind fruits that you can see next to him (and falling out of his mouth). If we turned up the hill leaving Hacienda Escondida, we headed towards a more local area with the river dissecting the two areas. It was a haven for wildlife – and they were all new to us!!!
Rivera del Rio
There is a bathing area and we saw local children having fun swimming in the river. The bridge across was the major route from the hillside down to the south side of the Old Town of Puerto Vallarta. If you stay at a resort, you will miss all of this, including a wonderful fresh market. I was told that despite the cobbled streets, the water from the taps was safe to drink. I drank it and it tasted good.
I think this is just a plain old Grackle, above, but I love his silhouette against the trees and hills. I don’t know the name of this little yellow bird, also enjoying tamarind fruit, but he was as little as the iguana was big.
Tiny little yellow bird
Simple Mural at Rivera del Rio
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.
Click on this red link to see Patsy Sue eating very slowly and noisily.
This photograph is for Victor Rakmil. His has a fantastic photographic blog on WordPress. His photos inspire me to do better and learn techniques. That said, I took this butterfly with an inexpensive camera, shaky hands, peripheral neuropathy and NO patience!
The title of the blog refers to my birthday which is today! I was born on a Wednesday in San Francisco, many, many years ago. No matter how I approach my birthday each year, it is not usually a happy day. I have spent many birthdays on vacation as our wedding anniversary is the day before and sometimes that helps. Although I am often smiling, it is a social mask to make me and everyone around me feel better.
I am surrounded by people who love me and still receive a handful of cards from relatives and friends. Presents make me anxious – why? Who knows, not me. My mother frequently quoted that line of the nursery rhyme – “Wednesday’s child is full of woe” – and perhaps it is just imprinted on my personality that I cried on special occasions. I still get very excited about events then get anxious and finally sad.
The truth is that I have chronic depression and anxiety. It was first noted when I was 7 and now that I am aged 56 I guess I will die with it. Someone recently mentioned to me that many people in the third world I have no idea of their birth date or exact age. Maybe that would work for me? In which case I would like to be born in August about 20 years later than I was… 🙂
This year, I am grateful that my husband has a job, after 6 months of unemployment. I seem to have chronic fatigue but it could be much worse. Currents global events are making me weary and sad. I volunteered yesterday and someone from Latin America told me in broken English that I was a very nice person.
Anyway, happy birthday to me, Crabby Kerry!