This tale was originally published by Loret T. Setters on September 30, 2011 at (beautifulwildlifegarden.com/). Click the date to view reader comments and find working links to other stories.
Early morning is often the best time of day to observe wildlife. The other morning was no exception. I noticed the Bidens alba moving under the weight of some unseen critter. This particular section of B. alba is somewhat overgrown, nearly as tall as I am. I quietly guessed what this critter could be. Was it a treefrog? heavy butterfly? owlet caterpillar? I sneaked in for a closer look. There was a small green anole (Anolis carolinensis), one of those comical lizards. He seemed to be zeroing in on a syrphid fly that was nectaring atop the thin branch of this Florida native wildflower. The branch swayed under the weight of the anole and then he jumped up as if to grab the fly.
My thought was “you silly thing…if you sway the branch that way, the syrphid surely will know you are trying to get him.” Mr. Anole merely licked his chops (seriously!) as he focused on yet another syrphid a branch or two over.
The branch he leaped from was still swaying and I realized he had a girlfriend (or guyfriend) tagging along for breakfast. Mr. Anole crept back to the starting branch and stayed under a leaf shielded from the hot sun. I, on the other hand, was sweating bullets, but unwilling to leave this encounter. I snapped a shot of Mr. Anole in the shade and watched the second anole just inches below him now keeping perfectly still. I kept still too since I didn’t want to scare them off.
Mr. Anole slowly crept up towards flowers. There was a skipper butterfly I felt sure he would attempt to catch, but he passed it by and turned his attention to another syrphid. He must have been craving those flies. He kept licking his chops and moving toward the fly, launching a poorly attempted leap that shook the branch and thus the syrphid flew on to another flower. Still Mr. Anole set his sights on yet another syrphid, licking his chops again and again. Mind you, now the branch was swaying as both anoles were hunting at the same time. My thought? “You guys are never going to catch those things, head on over and eat some ants.”
I realized I couldn’t stand there all day and the sun was baking me, so I took my customary walk around the front of the property, looking for things to photograph. There were gulf frits, sulphurs, white peacock and skipper butterflies, but I already have some pretty clear shots of those species and none were doing anything particularly spectacular. The flowers in bloom have all been featured in my “What Florida Native Plant is Blooming Today” series already. I came away from my walk with virtually no photographs.
I returned to the patio to see Mr. Anole still at it so again, I began to watch. Leap, fail. Leap, fail. Leap fail. Still dozens of skippers stopping by within reach and at one point I suggested that perhaps he should try a skipper, but nooooo, I read his mind “I want that syrphid”.
I shook my head sure he was setting his hopes too high when WOOSH! a leap and hit on the target. He held onto that fly in his mouth. He turned and gave me a look…I know that look… it was a “you don’t have a clue” look.
So, obviously I should not come back in my next life as an anole since I know little about what is tasty from the lizard menu…and I certainly don’t know what I’m talking about as far as what is catchable…and I don’t seem to set my goals high enough.
How stupid of me to think that I know better than some young lizard about nature. I’m so happy he proved me wrong, as it was a wonderful thing to watch and it makes me ponder why syrphids are a better choice than skippers…I guess I need to come back as an anole to find out.