Animals After a Hurricane (Part 1)

By: Peggy Willms

(5 mins)

Over the last several months, I have witnessed morning rituals from several animals in my surrounding habitat. I have always been an animal observer, just as I am an observer of people.

Our new home has allowed us to witness many of God’s creatures as they go about their daily rituals. Roaming our property is an anhinga, an alligator, turtles, doves, butterflies, dragonflies, egrets, geckos, and, let’s not forget my buddies, the herons. I have shared many videos on social media of my connection with herons. We nickname all our animals just like our larger plants, trees, and neighbors (don’t tell them).

OMG, we have become my grandparents because our day started like this…

“Good morning. How did you sleep? It is supposed to be 87 degrees today with a bit of rain. Flasher climbed his tree at about 7:20. Ali is hanging out with Tommy and Titus near the mound. The Orange Clan still isn’t back. Grandpa Grayson is concentrating on getting his breakfast. Sia and Julie are happy. The Bougie Girls are proud and tall. None of the Troop is out this morning.”

In this conversation, you have met a few members of our “family:” anhinga, alligator, turtles, ducks, and heron, as well as some foliage like our bottle brush and plumeria trees as well as the Bougainville vines and our neighbors (the Troop) whose names are private as some might read this blog – hi, all).

On September 28, 2022, our town was smashed by Hurricane Ian. The Category 4 made historical changes to our area and its people. Many landmarks, such as the barrier islands: Sanibel, Captiva, and Boca Grande will never be the same. Many of the access causeways and bridges will need to be built. Family members and treasures for many are gone forever. Several homes are sitting on long lists to be assessed for damages and rebuilt. And the natural, lush green habitat around us is now barren, creating a brightness from the heavens I have never seen before. Without the bushes and trees, the skies have opened. And all of the above changed the life of our Animal Kingdom as well.

We have experienced devastation to our home, but we are alive and well. AND BLESSED. On Thursday morning, after the storm, we slid open the doors and were devastated to see our naked trees. There were no visual or auditory sounds of wildlife. As we spent the day checking on neighbors, assessing damages, and cleaning our surroundings, we continued to look for signs of returning wildlife. None. Sadly, we found empty bird nests and birds in the yard that did not survive the 156 mph winds.

Day two, post-Ian, we noted a group of orange-billed, quirky ducks we had never seen before. I wondered if their thoughts were, “Hey, Dorothy, this isn’t Kansas?” Their disorientation was palpable. They honored us with their presence for only two mornings.

I started our day three, post-Ian conversation like this, “How did you sleep? Guess what? He is baaaaack. Flasher is back!” I think I did a bit of a Drop It Like It’s Hot dance clip. Yikes!

Our infamous social media icon was back. He found his way home, and he was trying to climb his tree. You read it correctly. He climbs trees. There are two trees on the lake’s edge in front of our house, and he “owns” the smaller one on the left of the huge pine tree. Frankly, it is what we call The Ugly Tree.

Bless his heart, Flasher isn’t graceful to begin with, so his daily tree climb is a struggle. I am not the Momma who would tell her child at rehearsal, “Baby, you can dance; you bet you can. Now repeat after me, I am a dancer!” Aaah, no, he isn’t, Momma. So, I will say it. As Flasher’s Momma, he is not graceful and will never get the part of the Black Swan.

After his third attempt to climb The Ugly Tree, I could feel his dismay; his shock. He realized his morning sun-tanning spot wasn’t the same. Once he mounted the first branch, I could almost hear him sigh as there were few branches and no leaves. He is an anhinga, also known as the snake bird, due to its appearance in the water. They look for places to spend extensive hours spanning their wings to dry out because they swim for food. Their wings are not coated, therefore, they become soaked with water, and he must sunbathe to dry them.

After Flasher saw the condition of his home, like many Floridians, he packed up and left. He no longer joined me for my morning coffee as he took his rising-dawn climb. [insert broken heart].

On day four, post-Ian, we noticed new additions to our animal family; of course, they have earned their names. The Happy Half Dozen is a family of six white egrets who parade the lake at dawn. The Cawkers is a clan of about twenty blackbirds and crows. Don’t come for me, but as far as I am concerned, I am waiting for them to migrate to their previous locale. Several doves visit us. We have a second, smaller gator. He hasn’t been named yet, as we are hoping he finds his old home again. And instead of two turtles, there are now five. The three new members are Larry, Curly, and Moe.         

Our bluebirds have not returned. The geckos have decreased in quantity by at least 75%.

The best news of all FLASHER IS BAAACK after being gone for several days. And he has proven to us that he is more intelligent than we initially thought. He will never be graceful, but he sure is smart. He must have remembered the vast, sturdy pine tree standing next to his old home. Though it has also been stripped of much of its greenery, many limbs stayed intact. The first branch is lower than Flasher’s other tree. This will prove to be his biggest blessing of all.

He did his original routine of bouncing his head up and down and looking around for about 90 seconds while he jiggled his wings as if testing them for the first time. He spread his wings, flapped for his life, and walked up his new tree. He wrapped his long-black neck around the first branch and easily, upon the first try, experienced victory. He never mounted his old tree on the first attempt. I think he glanced at me with an “I am back and bigger than ever.” As his Momma, who watches him daily, I responded, “Me, too, Flasher, me too!”

Peggy Willms
                                                                     All Things Wellness, LLC

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