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Boney critters of our garden


What with the incredible diversity of boneless lifeforms (insects, spiders, worms, you name it), the bone-in offerings seem a bit more limited. Birds have their own page, so this page features the swimming, slithering and scampering denizens of our garden – that would be mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. Reptiles only in theory: much as I'd like to have a resident snake population, my one attempt to introduce one hasn't resulted in repeat sightings.


We hope to see frogs every year in our pond. When we first put the pond in, six years ago, we bought a few bullfrog tadpoles and watched them grow. I think they survived the first winter, but one of the following winters, they all gave up. Since then, we see no amphibian life in the pond in the spring and early summer, but usually a frog or two (or more) will show up by mid-summer and hang around for the rest of the season. With all the goldfish running amock in our pond, frog eggs probably wouldn't stand a chance, so I doubt they could successfully breed.

Wow, I couldn't believe how tiny this amphibianlet was tht Ben found hopping across our patio. It must have hatched from the adjacent little pond, but I don't know what it is — the only frogs we've seen in our garden are American bullfrogs, and they have huge tadpoles. No way could something as teeny as this (that's Amy's little pinky nail, by the way) grow out of that, right? So I'm calling it a mini-toad for now. If you can tell me with more certainty what this is, please let me know (see the link at the bottom of this page). Chrysemys picta picta: painted turtle

A turtle is something new to our garden and pond. While driving through our neighborhood one day this spring, Amy noticed this fella crossing the road, and "rescued" it to our pond. Turns out it's an Eastern painted turtle (Chrysemys picta picta), whose species is widely distributed throughout the US. It was probably making its way from one of the natural ponds in our area, in search of a better place to pass time - I hope it doesn't mind its new digs. So far, it has been perfectly content, but until today it was very shy - we couldn't get closer than about 20 ft away before it would unceremoniously plump back into the (murky) pond. Recently, it has relaxed a bit, allowing me to take this photo of our Boxy sitting amidst blue flag leaves in the pond. brown toad


When we first moved into our house, I used to see toads every now and then. In the years that followed, the entire area around us was built up in neighborhoods, and toads didn't come around any more - much to my dismay. So I've been very pleased with their return in recent years, gladly putting up with their shrill mating calls in spring. So far I haven't tried to figure out which kind(s) they are - some certainly seem more brown, others more on the green side. I also don't know if they reproduce in our garden - our pond's bog filter seems like it should be a good place for toadpoles, but we have yet to see any. Hyla cinerea: American tree frog

For a little guy (much smaller than those bullfrogs above), this American tree frog (Hyla cinerea) sure makes a lot of noise! So much, in fact, that it led to the expulsion from our garden of the first one our family encountered, on account of it keeping half the family up for most of its first night in attendance. But we allowed a second one, which didn't have quite as powerful a voicebox, to stay in the garden. Its suction cup fingers are amazing, allowing it to climb vertically up any smooth surface (and even latching on to the fingers of those who dare catch it). The little fella pictured here had taken refuge in a stand of horsetail rush after Ben had located it by its night-time call.
Texas, July 2017


In time, I hope to be able to show photos of a resident snake, but no such luck just yet. So this section is limited to a single lizard for now: green anole: anolis carolinensis

Upon arrival in Texas, we were delighted to see lizards everywhere. One local nursery has them climbing through all of their plants. Our garden doesn't have too much climbable vegetation just yet, but still we've seen several of these green anoles (Anolis carolinensis) on our patio and climbing our brick walls. We're always happy to see them. green anole: anolis carolinensis

Green anoles aren't always green. Even though there is such a thing as a brown anole, I haven't spotted one yet – this guy here is a green anole, perhaps a color variant or perhaps just in an early-winter brown coat. It was content to sun itself on a freeze-damaged frond of our sago palm for over an hour.

Furry ones

Mammal life is limited in our garden. We always have rabbits, and Mr. Squirrel shows up to empty our birdfeeders in winter (but is nowhere to be seen the rest of the year). We see our chipmonks some years, but not very often, and groundhogs haven't made an appearance recently. Most voles we see show up on our patio lifeless, victims of our predator kittycat. Deer, who live on the other end of our neighborhood, have only ventured into our garden on two occasions, and have not made it their larder thus far (knock on wood!). On the one occasion that we sighted a fox, the camera was too far away.

Rabbits have discovered that our garden makes a great salad bowl. They are quite bold! Most of the year they don't do much damage. Our vegetable garden is enclosed – baby bunnies can get through the wire mesh, but bigguns can't. chipmunk

One year, a family of chipmunks lived near our patio pond, scurrying across the rocks surrounding the water. I never got close enough to take a proper picture... squirrel

One of our resident squirrels, doing what he does in wintertime: hang out around our bird feeders and steal whatever seed he can. He does appreciate the corn cobs we leave out for him as well.


Shibunken goldfish in our pond

Okay, so maybe the fish in our pond don't qualify as wildlife - we introduced them, and perhaps that makes them "pets". But the current set is several generations removed from the original few, and they live off what the pond provides naturally - so I say they are mostly wild.

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Last modified: March 04, 2018
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