Snakes and Flying Squirrels
|Red touch yellow - Coral snake|
The first was the appearance of a snake. A snake in Florida is not so unusual; we’ve found quite a few in many colors and sizes over the years here. Snakes are generally benign and benevolent creatures, whose diet is any creature smaller than they are. We’ve seen them in our garage, gardens and patio. Most of the time we let them be. Occasionally we relocate them where they can live peacefully without having to encounter any lawn mowers.
With the coming of the summer rainy season, my husband was cleaning out the gutters. I had the job of turning the water off and on while he was up the ladder removing the leaves. One obstruction in the downspout would not wash out. I told him he would have to take the downspout apart, and I went into the house to fix dinner. A few minutes later he came in. “Get your camera and come outside quick! Is it red-on-yellow or red-on-black?” He was telling me he had either a coral snake (venomous) or a king snake (harmless).
For those of you who haven’t heard the poem about the coral snake:
Outside, I photographed the largest coral snake I had ever seen. It was in the 30-to-36-inch size range. I really didn’t want to get close enough to measure it. My husband put on his leather gloves, picked up a small rake, and proceeded to put the snake in a bucket with a lid. He then relocated the snake to a place safe from any further human encounters.
|Kissimmee prairie Shirley Denton|
|Note the webbing stretching between front |
and back legs.
The other extraordinary thing that happened at our home was some new tenants in our bird house. My husband put up a standard bluebird house in our back yard in hopes of attracting a family of bluebirds. Instead we have flying squirrels!
|Away we go!|
Until they moved into our bird house, I had never seen one. I’ve heard them at night, in the large oak trees near the clubhouse. If you have large oak trees in your yard, go outside at night and listen. If you hear what sounds like birds chirping, you are hearing flying squirrels.
|Florida has over 21 species of oaks, and |
all of them provide acorns. Oaks are
one of THE most important trees for wildlife
according to Doug Tallamy in "Bringing Nature Home."
One of the threats to flying squirrels (and other cavity-nesting birds) is the absence of nest cavities. We humans tend to cut down and trim back any dead trees or dead limbs, thus eliminating many nest cavities which would otherwise make homes for the birds and squirrels.
|Red cockaded woodpecker building nest in tree caity|
The Environmental Committee has purchased a selection of bird houses which will be installed in the fall, when some of our handier members return to Florida and Highland Lakes. Consider adding a birdhouse to your back yard, and tell me what moves in. I would love to hear from you.
Editor's note: And we would love to hear from you, too! Peg wrote this article in her capacity as Chair of her HOA's Environmental Committee, a job she does in addition to her work as our Society's secretary. Do write in and let us know what you are doing for the benefit of plants and wildlife!