Friday, April 13, 2007

The things you find on an island

Moving to an island was an eye-opening adventure. Not only for the change in lifestyle but the new variety of insects and wildlife on the island.

While building our house we noted a lack of birds singing. I thought it strange as I associated birds with islands. Little did I realize that because the area we were building in was quite remote and overgrown, birds did not flock to our area as the grazing was more productive in other parts where the land had already been cleared.

One day, will working on the house, we heard a noise like a jet plane. It came upon us suddenly and just as suddenly the noise ceased. This happened twice during construction and we finally figured out that it was a hawk making its dive for prey. The second time my husband got a glimpse of the bird. It is absolutely amazing the type of noise these birds make in a dive.

Recently a juvenile Black Hawk started hanging around the home of our friends and we were privy to a photo of this lovely bird.

We also discovered that there were no real poisonous snakes on the island. There were, however, Boa Constrictors. The only one we saw during construction was one that some children living in the valley in back of us killed because it was caught killing their chickens. Last year, we discovered a Boa next door who was in the process of swallowing a Ching Ching (the name for the large blackbirds on the island). We got a series of photos of it during the 45 minutes it took to swallow its prey. Once it got started, it was harmless and my husband managed to pick it up and pose it for a photo. It was a little over 5 feet long and, I am sure, not at all happy with us interfering with its mealtime.

Of course we have Green Iguanas (an endangered species here on the island), black Iguanas, and small porch lizards of every size.

Some of the lizard prove to be very photogenic and we caught a pair in an amorous mood.

Once the house was built we became a feeding haven for hummingbirds. We have them all year round now but at the beginning they left in late November to return in February. However, we now have a few of the two varieties indigenous to the island that stay all year. They are lovely to watch and a source of great entertainment. As a girl from the northern United States, seeing a hummingbird was a special treat as they were not really hanging around the snowy plains of Minnesota! This particular photo was taken by my husband who, ultimately, had it published on a hummingbird website.
Of course, hermit crabs abound here. These ingenious little fellows will make a home out of anything. While constructing the house we found on the beach one day a little fellow who had taken refuge in the top of an abandoned lipstick case. He was all flashy in his gold case and seemed quite proud of his new home. Since then we have found them in a variety of homes from shells to hairspray caps. They come in all sizes, from small guys to hermit crabs that have taken up resident in large shells and display their claw as a warning!

Of course there are all kinds of snails on the beach and we found this little fellow one day peering out of his shell. Clicking on the photo will give you a super large picture and you can better see his features.

Along with hummingbirds, we have fruit bats which feed from the same containers as the hummingbirds but at night of course.
Don't worry. This bat was found laying dead in the backyard. I wouldn't have held it otherwise!

We have a few migratory birds and there was a pair recently that flew through stopping one day for a break. I’m afraid I don’t have the proper identifying name for them so I call them yellow birds. I hope you can click on this photo to enlarge it as they are difficult to see unless you do.

We also have mice and rats which I do not care to photograph. But we do have a little pocket mouse that takes up residence in our house every now and then. These little pocket mice or possums (not sure just what category they fall into) are the size of a large mouse and have two black eyes which remind one of a raccoon. They seem to like fruit and the seeds my birds drop and we are constantly capturing them and releasing them outdoors.
We have large toads that can scare the daylights out of you if you happen to be walking up the path to our house at night. They are oblivious to our presence and will not move. I hear they are poisonous to dogs but have only heard of dogs getting sick after playing with them and coming in direct contact with their skin. Of course there are the tree frogs who visit our water barrels at night and deposit their eggs. We always have a fresh supply of tadpoles swimming in our watering barrels!

While working in the yard one day, I came across this large stick bug. I had seen them around before but generally they were quite small. This fellow was huge and I had to get a photo of him.

We have tarantulas and scorpions and we have found plenty of both. I have no photos of the tarantulas and we leave them alone as I have heard they kill scorpions. We have plenty of scorpions both in the yard and in our bodega; some very small and others quite large. My husband captured one once in the bodega who was covered with little babies clinging to her body! Needless to say we transferred her to an area a distance away from the house.

The most unusual thing we have found, however, was one night while we were reading in bed. We heard a thump-thump on the screen with a buzzing noise. I went outside and found an impossibly huge fly on the screen. I scrambled for my camera and to show his size had my husband put his hand next to it. Shortly thereafter we heard more thumping but this time it was our cat, Mr. Leonard, who had attacked and demolished the unusual creature. We have never seen another one of these specimens. I still have the wings and hope to preserve them someday in polyurethane and make earrings out of them.

Of course, no island would be complete without the crabs! They are in abundance everywhere. This one managed to climb my laundry pole and perch himself on top!

So, living in the remote area we do provides us with the opportunity to see nature up close and personal!


  1. That giant fly looks like a cicada. But I'm not an expert.

  2. A wonderful post! I'm so jealous of your photographic abilities. I can't even get my dogs to sit still for a picture.

    I was also thinking some kind of cicada so I looked it up on Google Images and it looks like that is what you have. We had those in Texas and they get pretty big.

    Some of the photos wouldn't open in a separate window -- I'm not sure why.

    Here is an interesting tip. One of my chihuahuas apparently met up with one of those poisonous frogs. Her face started swelling up like crazy. It was night and we called the vet in a panic. He said to rub a cut lemon on her face. It sounded crazy but I did it and before long the swelling starting going down.

  3. I'd say it's a cicada as well. Raised in SE Texas we had plenty. They are here in the Ozarks too.