We saw our first cluster of lavender flowers from the jacaranda trees this morning. Winter came early to Florida, and the warm February temperatures have brought these early bloomers out. The jasmine are already sending forth their heavy perfume and the trees are budding leaves as fast as they shed them.
The mating season will soon be underway. Once I drove into a parking lot and nearly mowed down a great egret that was wandering about in a drunken erotical swagger. In the movie Bambi, Disney’s Thumper called it “twitterpated;” and by the flashy green down between the egret’s eyes and bill, I had to agree with that spunky rabbit.
Being twitterpated is not limited to birds. Alligators get downright mean and nasty when the urge to mate overtakes them. One lusty gator saw its reflection in the sliding glass door of a local resident and pursued the image aggressively thinking it was a prospective mate. The terrified homeowner called animal control when the twitterpated reptile stood upright against the glass to “get a little closer.” Lucky for her the door held until local authorities arrived.
One memorable morning, a “testy” gator proceeded to crawl across the road in front of me. Apparently a grate at the edge of the pond prevented the gator from swimming under the roadway to the other side, presumably, to meet its prospective mate. The gator drew quite a crowd as it hissed and snarled across the asphalt, warning passersby to stay their distance.
Even anoles get in the act; pumping their bright red throat fans to impress the opposite sex. This undulating process goes on all summer and into fall as these lizard-like creatures mate and nest. During the winter months, anoles and lizards hibernate, and I rarely see them scurrying across my path.
Love bugs are another southern phenomenon. These red-headed black bugs spend their entire adult life copulating. The male and female attach themselves at the rear and remain that way even while flying. They splatter themselves over windshields and car radiators from April through May.
Shortly after mating, the love bug male dies; but that doesn’t dampen the female’s incredible urge to reproduce. She simply drags her dead mate around until she lays her eggs in the grass; and then she dies, most likely from exhaustion. Her eggs will hatch in the warmth of rotting grass mulch and become the next season’s wave of love-bugs.
Squirrels in my neighborhood get downright silly during the mating season, which usually happens two or three times a year. They showoff, turn backward somersaults, and play games like “twitch” the tail and “tag you’re it!”
For two seasons running, squirrels built their nest in our cabbage palm. The mated pair cleaned and secured their nest in the spiked bark that protruded from the top of the tree. Their nest included escape tunnels and front and back points of entry.
During the gestation period, all was quiet except for excursions, in turns, by the parents to obtain food. After about two plus weeks of silence, three babies appeared. The youngsters brazenly crept to the edge of the palm fronds that made up their front porch and peeked over the side. Before long, they were chasing each other through the tunnels and playing “hump” games in preparation for future mating and nesting experiences of their own.
When the squirrel mama decided her litter was ready for life outside the nest, she carried each baby by the scruff of its neck much the same way a cat carries its kittens. One by one the tiny squirrels were transported to a nearby live oak. The process was repeated until all three babes were safe.
Two families of squirrels were born and nurtured in my cabbage palm, and then hurricane Charlie whipped through the area and scattered the nesting bark to the far winds. Many times the squirrels and their offspring returned perplexed, sniffing and searching my cabbage palm for evidence of their former home. I miss those squirrels.