A Hawk, A Skink, A Squirrel, and a Redneck walk into the woods. . .

This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) and his mate have moved into our woods, creating havoc with all the other inhabitants. The hawk is a top predator and no one is happy about having them hanging around. . .except maybe the photographer.

Above and Below the hawk gave me profile shots until he realized that I could see him, about 30 feet up in a Live Oak Tree (Quercus virginiana).

I always know when the hawks are active as the mockingbirds, blue jays, and cardinals start screaming bloody murder. Collectively they will strafe the hawks until the hawks move on to their nest high above our woods in an old pine tree.

Below: The female hawk posed for me in March by one of the ponds. Notice the difference in eye color between the two individuals. The female also has an injury to her left talon which she always holds close to her breast.

None of the turtles are happy about having a pair of Red-tailed hawks nearby. Even the stray cats that frequent the pond areas are frightened. Redneck, the friendliest of the turtles (below), has been keeping a very low profile this week.

Many afternoons all I can see of Redneck is something like this— just a third of his head protruding from the water.

I have not seen Redneck basking in the sun since the arrival of the hawks.

Six-lined Racerunner Skinks (lizards)

(Aspidoscelis sexlineatus)

There are suddenly hundreds of Skinks around the ponds.

They are Six-lined Racerunners (Aspidoscelis sexlineatus).

The skinks resemble the anole lizards that are common in east central Florida but they are a bit longer, much more skittish, and have bright blue bellies with striped backs.

Six-lined racerunners have six light blue to yellow lines running the length of their body. Males have a pale blue belly and throat. The hind feet are much longer than the front and the fourth toe on the hind foot is extremely long. The skinks can be up to 12 inches (30 cm.) long.

This lizard lives in open, dry grasslands and sandy areas (or around my damp ponds). Six-lined racerunners are very fast and can outrun most humans attempting to catch them. However, when you see one of these active, alert lizards, you can usually watch it if you don't get too close. These lizards rarely climb and often take refuge in burrows if frightened. They eat a variety of insects.

My skinks tend to hang on the pathways around the ponds in the afternoon waiting for me to put the sprinklers on (still no rain and temperatures have been in the 90°s F, 35° C). Below, once the sprinklers come on the skinks head for the water. These skinks move very quickly, darting about from place to place, and are extremely shy. When they see the hawks, they dive into the ponds.

My scrawny Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) are especially annoyed by the presence of hawks. These little guys are barely surviving this very hot and dry summer. I've been feeding them almonds and sunflower seed but they still appear anemic. They quickly disappear when they hear the birds crying that the hawks are near.