Discover Florida # 3 -- 'Catting' around the streets of North Port

Yes, I've been wandering around my neighborhood with my camera again, and today got some exciting photographs. Wait and see. I was so excited I went through my photo files and put together a safari of my yard. Welcome to my wild-life kingdom.

photos from Google eart
photos from Google eart

My 'city' house in the forest

You’d never know you were in a city walking around my neighborhood. It’s quiet, peaceful, full of Florida’s fauna going about their business and above all green.

See the pictures to the right? They can’t give you the true feeling of the area due to the high perspective. Although the neighborhood is thirty years old, it was never fully developed – like much of North Port, Florida’s third largest city in area with a population of around 55,000. We don’t have street lights. We don’t have sewers. Every house has its own septic system.

When I sit on my lanai and stare into the forest around me, I can easily imagine myself out in the country, perhaps a campground in a state park. It’s wonderful.

The woods around here are made up of the spreading canopy of live oak, the tall skinny loblolly pines, cabbage palms and the ever present palmetto scrub. You'll occasionally find a rain tree, seeded from those planted in gardens and the beautiful flowering poinciana trees are also colonizing, though they suffer from the January frosts.

The forest floor is thickly grown with creepers, saw palmettos (that can make you bleed) and littered with fallen branches and tree trunks, casualties of the last hurricane to come through here (2004--Charlie.) Wood doesn't last long once it hits the ground. Kick any old stump and marvel at the dense populations of wood ants capable of turning a thirty six inch oak trunk to sawdust in a year.

The leaf and wood litter is rich in nutrients but only a few inches thick. Under it lies the gray, impoverished sandy soil of the area which I'm told is made up of crushed coral from eons ago. Which probably explains why the dense forests remain. The land is not much good for agriculture, and was probably a nightmare to clear before the age of chain saws, bulldozers and 'palmetto hogs.'

The woods are so dense, you wouldn't get far even wielding a machete.

A fact for which I am eternally grateful.

A stately visitor to my yard. photo by me
A stately visitor to my yard. photo by me
Photos by me
Photos by me

Our neighborhood abounds with wild-life.

Geckos, anoles, skinks and other lizards I can’t name dart around my garden, hunting and being hunted in turn. Hawks take them. The long legged, S-necked, slow moving egrets love to eat lizards. As do snakes. All it takes is one black racer snake to slither through the yard to send all the lizards scampering up the trees or the walls of the house.

One day a tortoise came marching through the garden while I was weeding. He was about the size of a laundry basket and looked like he was intent on getting somewhere. I straightened up, and he stopped, pulled his head and legs into his shell and hissed at me. I ignored him, and he was soon on his way.

Frogs of all sizes abound in the warm season. Tiny little tree frogs, huge bull frogs, spotted ones, brown ones, bright green ones and at night, pale, sickly-green large frogs with almost a phosphorescent quality come out from wherever they hide, take up a station on the house walls and join the chorus with a voice that sounds like lunatic laughter. Sopranos, tenors and bass, a complete orchestra. For the tympani, the toads add their ‘Ack, ack, ack.’

A tiny tree frog enjoys my rosemary shrub.
A tiny tree frog enjoys my rosemary shrub.

The most insect-infested place....

And the bugs! I have to say Florida is possibly the most insect-infested place I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to West Africa!

There must be dozens of varieties of mosquitoes alone, along with gnats, flies, and things you can’t see, all wanting to drink your blood. Be careful where you step, too. The sandy soil is full of fire ants – and they hurt!

Look below. Those are my feet the last time I stepped into a fire ant nest.

Photos by me
Photos by me

Hardly a day goes by when I don’t find some new exotic looking bug I’ve never seen before in a never ending variety of shapes, colors and sizes.

Butterflies abound in an amazing panoply, beautiful, delicate and so pretty to watch, you forget they’re busy laying eggs that grow into caterpillars capable of stripping a bush in a day and bearing whiskers loaded with poison strong enough to numb your arm, like the lovely blue one to the right. I admired it everyday in the spring, and then by mid-summer, cursed the spine-laden, squirming offspring it left behind . (Ouch!)

Look below at the Florida Zebra Longwing -- the state butterfly-- a common visitor to my yard. It seems partial to the orange flowers of the southern milkweed, a clump of which grows on the west side of my house. (Then it's caterpillars ate all the leaves off my tomatoes.)

Photos by me
Photos by me

Not all the bugs are hurtful. Some are just noisy, like the cicadas with their weird songs that ring out all day and well into the night. Or the crickets that serenade the moon.

Others spend their time plotting how to get into your house. Leave one crumb on the kitchen counter and an army of ants appears from nowhere to cart it off.There are so many different kinds of ants in this state, it makes your head swim.

Want one?
Want one?

Not to mention the cockroaches. There are many varieties of those as well, from small beige ones no bigger than a dime to the huge red ones the size of a lemon that crunch unpleasantly when you step on them.

Yes, the great outdoors loves to come in.

Spiders? Well they’re worthy of their own hub, and they’re going to get one later on, complete with pictures. Otherwise no one would believe me.

Golden silk spider is known locally as the banana spider. It's bite is mildly toxic (it hurts but won't kill you) and it can grow to around six inches. And there are thousands of them building their webs everywhere. Photos by me.
Golden silk spider is known locally as the banana spider. It's bite is mildly toxic (it hurts but won't kill you) and it can grow to around six inches. And there are thousands of them building their webs everywhere. Photos by me.
Photos by me
Photos by me

Armadillos, possums and raccoons, oh my!

But, I digress. This hub isn’t about the bugs. I got carried away on a tangent. (I’m still kind of freaked out by Florida’s insect population – amazing. Excuse me.)

No, I meant to write about the higher life forms.

My yard is home to a couple of armadillos who come out at night and root around in the leaf litter looking for worms and bugs. Good hunting, I say. Possum live twenty to thirty feet above the ground in the giant oaks around the house, an aerie they share with at least a dozen vocal squirrels.

But it suddenly dawned on me I haven’t seen much of them lately.

Even the raccoons who used to drive my mastiff dogs crazy haven’t been around.

Photos by me
Photos by me

And the rabbits that had me gnashing my teeth by eating everything I tried to grow seem to have disappeared.

It has been rather quiet around here lately.

Why?

The answer is below. These pictures are taken in my neighbor's yard, no more than 500 feet away.

Photos by Kevin Newell, North Port, Florida (my neighbor)
Photos by Kevin Newell, North Port, Florida (my neighbor)

The Bobcat (Lynx rufus floridanus)

  • Characteristics

This is a medium sized cat with a total length of 24-40 inches and a weight of 40-25 pounds. They have a very short tail, relatively long legs, and rather long, loose fur with longer cheek fur forming sideburns. The upper parts are reddish-brown spotted or streaked with black, and white below, spotted or streaked with black. The breeding season is from early January to March, and they are probably monogamous. A litter of 1-5 kittens is born in a den in April or May. This is a good climber, but prefers the ground and is also a good swimmer, but only if forced. It has a swift, distinctive bounding gait. It is very secretive and sticks to cover. It is seldom found in the open except at night, for it is a nocturnal species. It has a range from 5-50 miles in diameter. The life span in the wild is 6-8 years.

  • Distribution

They are found in rough topography, in all habitat types. There is little avoidance of any habitat or any habitat type except highly developed areas and those with dense human populations. Clearings and old fields are important for hunting areas.

  • Foods

This species is the primary predator of small game. The cottontail rabbit is the top preferred food. They also feed heavily on large rodents such as the cotton rat. They occasionally kill white-tail deer.

Dick and Remy in the front yard -- the civilized side of the house. Dick is 250 pounds and Remy 195. Remy is new to us, a refugee from Mastiff Rescue.
Dick and Remy in the front yard -- the civilized side of the house. Dick is 250 pounds and Remy 195. Remy is new to us, a refugee from Mastiff Rescue.

City life?

Like I said in the beginning, you'd never know you were in a city walking around my neighborhood. But if you own a small dog, better take care when you let him out.

Come to think of it, the feral cat population has declined as of late, as well.

Now I know why Dick and Remy, my mastiffs, barked so fiercely the other night. They stood in the middle of the yard, bristling all over, tails stiff and high, and barked until I told them off. Then Remy contented himself with a low growl, whereas Dick turned around and ran for the back door.

I had no idea, not until this afternoon.

More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

Darlene Sabella profile image

Darlene Sabella 5 years ago from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ...

Wow, did you really take these pictures yourself? IF so I am so impressed do you just use a digital camara? That spider really scares me, the the Abariges honor them. The baby racoon are so cut, you live in a jungle, yet it is Florida, very cool, I was born in Florida. Rate up up and great really great Love & peace Darski


resspenser profile image

resspenser 5 years ago from South Carolina

Nice hub, loved the pictures. Congratulations on your book release today!!!!!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Darlene, The bobcat pictures were taken by my neighbor Keven Newell who immediately shared them with me and gave me permission to publish them. I've glimpsed this cat from time to time, and heard him in the underbrush. The satellite pictures are courtesy of Google Earth and all others were taken by me with my $100 Kodak digital camera -- bottom of the line and idiot proof. Yes, most people have no idea of what Florida is really like. Such a unique place. Thanks. Lynda

Hi resspenser. Thanks. Surprising isn't it -- living in the forest like this right in the middle of a city? We're so fortunate. And thanks on the congrats for the book. Not that much has changed. Just the official date for release. Lynda


Nan 5 years ago

Congradulations on your new book. Your pictures should be on a slide show, with all of the animals and birds. These are good to have for showing to a science class someday. Or make a video of all of them. I dodn't like the snakes, and I wonder if they strike humans, they are scary.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks Nan. About the snakes -- black racers are harmless to humans. Of the 179 species of snakes in Florida only six are venomous. I find them fascinating and you should see them move? They're not called racers for nothing.


Bail Up ! profile image

Bail Up ! 5 years ago

What an amazing place you live in. I couldn't help to notice a body of water on the google earth pic. If that's the beach (probably a lake though) I might just become the 55,001 resident. Great pictures and hub, thoroughly enjoyed it.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Bail Up. Yes, this area is wonderful that way. The nearest good beach is 20 min. Boca Grande is 30 minutes away. See:http://hubpages.com/travel/Discover-Florida-Boca-G...

But be aware. THanks to economy, oil spill and fewer tourist dollars, there's not a lot of work here. If you can handle that, well welcome!


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Florida really is a jungle. I grew up in Key West so a few of these creatures are familiar. You've done an incredible job of photographing them. Loved the lizard, raccoons and bobcat the most. About your poor feet, those ant bites look painful. And Dick has a new friend. Hooray. Loved this glimpse into your neighborhood.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks PegCole. You see I linked to your excellent hub on cicadas. Yes, the streets of North Port are wild. Literally. A unique place and I hope it stays this way. I love sharing my space with nature. Right now some woodpecker is working on the tree just outside.

Yes, Dick has a new friend, a five year old male with a bad rear end, but very, very sweet. Remy.

Thanks, Lynda


Sylvia Leong profile image

Sylvia Leong 5 years ago from North Vancouver (Canada)

In Vancouver, Canada we are surrounded by rain forest & ocean. Most homes are without screens over their windows as insects are not much of a worry. But we do have the cold & the damp. I took a brisk hour walk today in +8 degree celsius temperatures but still I'm chilled & now under a duvet in front of the fireplace.

North Port, Florida looks like my kind of place! Dense foliage & ocean-side are my two "needs" for a city to call home. And I'll bet the weather is warm & that housing prices are reasonable to boot!

Be careful, Lynda. Next time you go for a walk through your neighbourhood, you may find yourself surrounded by fellow hubbers who've made the move to a better place!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Sylvia. I'm from the Calgary area and know Vancouver well. Never could live there; the sunless winters drove me mad. I've come to Florida for the winters for years and now spend more time here than in Alberta. Reasonable housing? You can buy a three bedroom modest home for $50-70,000. No joke! So if all you hubbers are looking at a vacation house, now's the time.

And if you're not ready to move full time, I'll look after them all -- for a fee. Thanks for the comment. Lynda


amybradley77 profile image

amybradley77 5 years ago

Wonderful, hub here. Your feet pictures reminded me of living up in Alaska. A place I'm sure I will never live in again, but very nice to visit. I too don't like the long dark winters, I am much more of a sunny day person. That's why here in Eastern Oregon is so great, you can enjoy winters that have sunny days as well. A.B.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi amybradley. I have to ask, how do fire ant bitten feet remind you of Alaska? No fire ants up there. Inquiring minds wonder. Lynda


Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

What a brilliant hub. I love animals/wildlife/nature etc. Your photography is brilliant and I am really jealous that you live so near to all this wildlife.

Thank you so much for sharing and if you have any more similar to this one then please put them on here. An awesome, beautiful and vote up here.

Take care.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

You certainly won't live a lonely life there. Thank you for these great picture. and a wonderful hub to read.


ocbill profile image

ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

I never been there and I was a little south in PG for a year just across the bridge. I remember the bugs but with the screens, you never really are annoyed. I did notice the bugs are abundant and they'll flutter/hover right in front of you like a fish plodding through water. I enjoyed it and may soon return to FL but probably the eastern side.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thank you Eiddwen. My pleasure to share all this bounty.

Hi Hello,hello and thanks. I consider myself quite fortunate to be in this spot.

Nice to hear from you ocbill. To each their own taste. I don't like the east coast so much as the Gulf Coast. Too built up, too busy. The Gulf is very laid back. Thanks for commenting.

Thanks to all. Lynda


gr82bme profile image

gr82bme 5 years ago from USA

Fantastic photos! Your poor feet. I had no idea Florida had forest.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 5 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I'm not surprised you didn't know that most of Florida is forested. Most people have no idea, picturing a never ending stretch of cities, resorts, beaches, amusement parks and orange groves. Blame TV. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


The Giselian profile image

The Giselian 2 years ago

Wow - what a great read :-) My son and I live in Honolulu and apart from cockroaches, ants, rats and the regular city critters, we would never have guessed that North Port was so WILD LOL - I have been thinking of relocating to the Sarasota area, but praytell, where is the best (if even EXISTANT) place to move which does NOT have mosquitoes.... my legs are like life itslef to them and I get eaten alive - is is a MUST to have a screened-in portch and if so, do they still get int.... they scare me to death!!!!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 2 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Giselian, Um--the best place to move that does not have mosquitoes would maybe be Arizona, certainly not Florida. Almost alll houses have a screened in porch, called a lanai around here, so you'd have a safe zone, but you'd have to go outside sooner or later... Thanks for commenting.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working