Don’t be deceived by the romance of a warm tropical night, gentle breezes, and swaying palms — there are countless eyes in the shadows watching us, studying us. I know this because I’ve met them, face-to-face — or rather face-to-web. Just recently, I managed to entertain a whole new set of neighbors with my spider web dance, the kind where I flail my arms all around me, overdramatically brushing webs from my face and hair.
The difference, though, between these South Florida webs and my Long Island webs was that these seemed a bit thicker and gooier — but there was no sign of the spider that spun this mess.
Generally speaking, I like spiders. They provide a valuable garden service. I just want them to keep their webs out of my space and I’ll gladly stay out of theirs.
Then came the morning when I — in what can only be described as a Little Miss Muffet moment — had the feeling I was being watched. It wasn’t the sort of staring that comes from the countless lizards scurrying and sunning about. I’ve grown accustomed to them.
Nor was it the look from a young turtle hitching a ride on his very own coconut island.
This was something much more sinister, more alien. I looked left — nothing. I looked right — nothing. I looked over my shoulder — still nothing. Then I looked above me — and there it was, a skull-like face floating in the air.
Actually, it’s the back of what I have since learned is a type of Orbweaver spider. Fortunately, the spider was more spider-sized than my zoom lens-sized image. Otherwise, I would have to up my spider web dance a few notches.
These spiders are just some of the new-to-me creatures calling my yard home — which is ironic, since the animals that follow are not native to this area. Instead, they were introduced to South Florida.
Allow me, then, to introduce them to you. Since I’m close to Miami right now, it only makes sense to borrow a line from Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface: “Say hello to my little friends.”
There are moments during the day when my backyard looks more like Jurassic Park than Florida, as an array of iguanas chew their way across my lawn or sun themselves on the seawall. Introduced to the ecosystem as escaped or released pets, iguanas have a strong presence in some areas. Several years ago, a cold snap wiped out a large portion of the iguana population — but they have since rebounded.
The ducks were introduced as ornamental waterfowl — you know, living decorations for golf courses and parks. Originally from Mexico and Central and South Americas, the ducks have done quite well here. In fact, they seem to have little fear of humans. I have yet to hear them quack — but they do an awful lot of hissing, as if they have a touch of laryngitis.
This visit was completely unexpected, especially since these birds are African natives. Like Muscovy Ducks, Egyptian Geese were introduced as ornamental waterfowl . . .
And I always thought plastic pink flamingos were ornamental enough!