it finds you

Today, the tiny woman who drives the bus inside my head is sitting behind my eyes with her sleeve pulled over her forearm, wiping the fog away from the window. I'll hear nothing about Monday's. A day of the week is just as inconsequential as the distance between friends of the soul. Besides, if days were seasons, Monday is spring. Fresh, dewy and just underripe. A harvest pear.

I've wanted to share this reptile experience with you for quite some time. Picture this: you're on a treasure hunt following a map. You can follow the paths to seek the grail as much as you wish. But the "X" that marks the spot, it finds you.

Behold my success. I'll compare this fruitful adventure to my greatest life achievements. Truly! These little friends were seriously difficult to find.

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Three. I found not one but three! Well, Johanna found the last one. It was walking across the path at a glacial speed.

They are the color of dirt and then they're not. The color of leaves and then gone altogether. They are prisms reflecting the hues of their perches. 

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) - Għadira Nature Reserve, Malta

Chameleons don't change colour to camouflage themselves. Their varying colours are social signals to other chameleons.

When handled by humans or pursued by predators, chameleons turn nearly black. It's a signal of fear and discomfort. Best to leave them to their musings.

The sentinels of Malta

Perhaps you need a break from birds (What are you, nuts?). Consider these Maltese Wall Lizards, if you like.

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) male - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) female - Malta

The Maltese Wall Lizard (or Filfola Lizard) exists only on the three islands of Malta and in some parts of Italy. Males are bright green, as seen above, while females and juveniles are rusty or brown. These lizards mate in the spring and then lay one or two eggs which hatch in the summer. 

They are everywhere in Malta and skitter through the succulents along the path every few steps it seems. Sometimes, a male was spotted puffing up and raising his head. This is a behaviour reserved for either intruders or sexy ladies.

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) male - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) female - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) male - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) female - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) male - Malta

Maltese Wall Lizard (Podarcis filfolensis) male sunning itself near a field of poppies - Malta

Not pictured in this post: the secret society of the very few. AKA Ocellated Skinks. I think we saw three of them but they're so quick! I couldn't grab a photo. They are beautiful lizards though. Stay tuned for a very special future lizard post involving, say, chameleons. 

Big time succulent envy

I kill an average of one succulent per quarter here in Newfoundland. Succulents are arid weather plants (high temperatures, low rainfall). They get most of their water from the air. Where I live, there is more water than I can comprehend. Lots of precipitation, humidity, ponds and bogs every few feet. But it's cold. And too wet. There is no need for draught-resistant plants here. But I attempt to grow them anyway.

Succulents are on trend right now. And just like with Apple devices, I am drinking the kool-aid. Why has it taken so long for the masses to realize how cool cacti are?! If you're like me and you are obsessed with these little alien Darwinian champions, you will be blown away by the succulents in Malta.

Two words. Climbing. Cacti. Picture the way Morning Glory vines all over everything (and then you panic and regret ever saying Morning Glory was pretty). Now imagine thick Cathedral Cactus looking SOB's climbing up 3 stories of 300-year old farmhouse.

You've got to see this array of succulents.

I can't get enough of the macro plant porn. You need to see these roadside cacti as well though.

You can't gauge the height of the cactus in the above photo but I'll tell you, it was easily twice my height (I'm 5'4").

If you're feeling nerdy and you want to identify some of the above plants, please take a crack at it in the comments. I would be happy to collaboratively nerd out with you.

Creatures that lurk in the bayou

Four critters. Two of them are not birds. Maybe if you've tired of my incessant bird-mongering, you'll stop by. Please?


First off, a turtle. Everyone likes turtles right? [Insert link for YouTube turtle kid video that three of you still have not seen somehow.]

Here it is, a mediocre photograph of a Pond Slider in a Louisiana bayou.

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Every floating log and breaching boulder was overstocked with these fellows. It was difficult to photograph them however because of the speed of the boat and the shyness of the turtles upon our approach.

Pond sliders are quite common. You might know them better as Red-eared Sliders (a subspecies), which is common in pet stores. It delighted me to find out that these sliders are no good for turtle soup. Not that I'd be opposed to trying turtle soup. I just wouldn't want to shatter my vision of the hordes of sun-happy ancients. Like twenty-somethings on the first day of a music festival.

Secondly, a snake. I nearly jumped out of the boat with joy after finding several snakes along the way. I figured there might've been gators in the water though. So I refrained.

Not your everyday water snake.

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Rather than discussing cutesy things like what they eat and when they sleep, let's talk about what happens when you try to pick one up. It's pretty motley. They bite. Vigorously. And they emit jets of malevolent musk mixed with feces. They do not prefer that you handle them. Slightly different from the little water snakes I used to gather in my hands and pockets as a child on the north fork of the Gunnison River. Though I'm certain those snakes did not prefer me either.

If you're a regular reader, you might know that I find the antics of Great Blue Herons (and by antics I mean that you turn 100 years old watching them take one step) pretty entertaining. The GBH found in the bayou was no exception. He just seemed more creepy because he was wading in the still dark waters of a swamp. Amidst giant mangrove trees that masked him for whole minutes at a time.

Da-dum (Jaws theme music).

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DA-DUM.

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DA-DUM DA-DUM...

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And lastly, my very first Prothonotary Warbler. The natives refer to them as swamp canaries. A bayou is a colorful little ecozone and these warblers somehow make it more lucid.

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I hope you enjoyed your quick escape into the bayou. Don't forget that you can click on the photos to enlarge them AND you can leave me comments at the bottom which I will readily read and respond to.