Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Staying Close to Home...Too Hot to do Anything Else

A week of triple-digit temperatures has kept me close to the house, dreading my morning runs and scurrying out to run errands early in the day before the sun gets too high in the sky.  Whew!  Hot in Houston!  Staying close to the house has its benefits, including enjoying the wildlife that often pass through my back yard.  Birds, hawks, snakes, skunks, raccoons...

The other morning I was sitting at my breakfast table, drinking coffee, checking e-mail, when I saw some movement in the large crape myrtle in my backyard.  I love the view out my breakfast room window.  From here I can watch the hummingbirds at my feeders in the fall and spring.  I see the cardinals pair up during nesting season and the mockingbirds flirting with each other with their aerial acrobatics.  A large raptor, with a predominantly brown back and wings, regularly comes into my backyard and perches on the fence beneath the crape myrtle.  It will sit there for quite a while, still as a statue, before taking off again.

So this morning, when I saw the limbs shaking in that crape myrtle I grabbed my camera and stepped out onto the deck to see what was causing it.  I quickly spotted a small racoon, a baby really, hanging for dear life from one of the limbs.  It was desperately trying to get a purchase with its hind limbs but eventually gravity won out and the little guy dropped down onto the ground in my neighbor's yard.

It was then that I realized that there was another little raccoon already up in the tree and a third on the ground - actually peeking at me around the trunk of the tree.  If I could have gotten my camera turned on, aimed and focused, I would have captured a truly adorable photo of that one.  But wait!  What's this?   The one that fell out of the tree is coming around the corner, sees me, and starts to make menacing noises and "box" with its adorable little front paws.   I'm being "faux-attacked" by a baby raccoon!!  Precious! 

The second raccoon clambered up the tree, and this third little guy - I'll call him the runt of the litter - skittered over to the tree sideways, never taking his eyes off of me.  He cowered at the base of the tree, then awkwardly began to climb the tree.  All this time, the three of them were communicating with each other with non-stop mewls, chitters and clicks. 

Now, the other two raccoons were safely ensconced in the tree, well up in the branches, but the little runt was having a really hard time getting up there.  The other two were clearly encouraging the little runt with their chirps and squeaks.  When the little runt got closer, one of the other raccoons reached out to him, as if to say, "Here, take my paw.  I'll help you up."  I was enthralled by all of this!!

Once all were safely up in the tree, I moved closer to get some photos of them.   I noticed that they were shaking - no doubt from fear of my presence - so I went back into the house to leave them alone to their exploring.

Thirty minutes or so later, I wondered if they were still in that tree.  I ever-so-quietly opened the back slider and crept out into the yard, camera in hand.  There they were, all huddled up in a pile of fur on a branch, their heads tucked in under a tangle of tails, paws, and fur, sound asleep!  Oh, so cute!

Another thirty minutes passed and went back outside to check on them again, and found them awake.  Here they are, alert and all eyes, as they check ME out!

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