Thursday, July 6, 2017

CULTURE SHOCK LESSONS #102: Moving to Mexico--Geckos Live in the House!

And Anoles in the Garden!

This Anole Puffs Out His Throat Pouch When He Sees Me

This is How He Looks Before He Puffed Out His Throat
     The first time I encountered a gecko in our house in Mexico, I wasn't sure who was more startled, me or the gecko. It was two years ago, the day after we closed on the purchase of our home and we were excited to begin cleaning so we could move into our Hacienda-style casita. I walked into the kitchen, my arms full off cleaning supplies and almost dropped them in surprise as I saw a six-inch long gecko scurry across the kitchen wall and scoot behind a wall-mounted Mexican clay light fixture. Then I giggled at myself. Had I actually screamed? I hoped none of the neighbors had heard me. I had been scared by a little gecko! That's when I began to learn about these little creatures and ended up loving them.

Geckos in Every Room of the House

     I knew geckos lived in the garden and on our tile patio. I later learned that anoles, a type of lizard that are similar to geckos, also live in the garden. I had seen one of these fast little critters dart across the patio and dive under an equipal Mexican chair when we first toured the house. But after moving in, I soon learned that we would be sharing the inside of our home with quite a few geckos. They each seem to have their own section of a room where they live, their own territory. Two geckos lived in the kitchen, though on separate walls. One lives in the office near the bug zapper, attracted to the glow of the UV light.
Geckos Love to Hang Out Near the Bug Zapper

     At least two geckos occupy the bathroom, I'm sure, because I see two on or near the ceiling when I go in at night. This really gave me the creeps at first. We didn't have critters living in our house in Oregon, so this was a big adjustment for me. I soon discovered that one 3-inch long gecko sleeps during the day behind my hand mirror leaned up against the tile back-splash. The first time I picked up the mirror and startled that little guy out of his slumber, I jumped and he darted behind the counter shelf. Now I know he's there and I apologize to him for disturbing him when I pick up my hand mirror. Yes, I have begun to talk to the little fellows in baby-talk. Occasionally, in the evening when we are reading in bed, we see two baby geckos, about an inch long, crawling across the bedroom ceiling. You can imagine how I baby-talk to those cute little creatures.

Nocturnal Animals, Startling at Night

     Geckos are nocturnal animals, so I really don't see them in the house very often. It was my nighttime visits to the bathroom that were unnerving at first. As I stumbled in by the light of the bug zapper, half asleep, I would be startled awake by two 4 or 5-inch long geckos skittering across the ceiling or wall to the nearest hiding place. It took me a year of living in our Mexico house before I became so comfortable with their presence that I now mutter "Hola, gecks" as I walk into the bathroom at night, my eyes barely open. And they don't even skitter away any longer. 
A Gecko as I Squint at it in the Bathroom at Night

Gecko Poop Each Morning

     So how do I know where the geckos live if I rarely see them during the day?  Because they leave gecko poop in the same areas every night. Each morning I use a damp paper towel to wipe up the little turds left in the same spots, on the top of the tile baseboards, on a section of kitchen counter beneath a light fixture, on the floor, and sometimes stuck on the wall. They poop where they live. At first, this was disgusting and gross to me. Now it's just part of living in an area of Mexico where we throw our windows and doors open each morning and enjoy living with nature.

Geckos Make Loud Noises

     Late afternoon of our first day living in our casita, we were sitting on our porch enjoying a glass of wine and watching the hummingbirds buzz around in our garden. Suddenly, we heard an animal overhead, hidden in the wooden beam and tile porch roof, making a rather loud clucking noise. We looked at each other and I said, "What was that?" We later learned that geckos make this noise, probably to establish their territory.  I've since decided it sounds like a kissing sound, and I enjoy it. Now I purse my lips and kiss back.

Geckos Eat Mosquitoes and Other Insects

     Thank goodness we have geckos in our house! They eat mosquitoes and other insects, which helps prevent the spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and the Zika virus. To read more about this, see my article FIGHTING MOSQUITOES: Preventing the Spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, & Zika
     So geckos may be attracted to our Mosquito Zappers partly due to the light they give off, but also because the mosquitoes are attracted to the Zappers. That makes the area around the Mosquito Zapper a food-rich territory for the geckos. It took a while for us to adjust to the gecko poop, the loud sounds and startling movements of the geckos. Now we are thankful that the geckos live in our house and eat the mosquitoes and other insects.

Geckos and Anoles are Entertaining

    Geckos and anoles are entertaining to watch as they climb the plants in the garden and run across the patio, searching for bugs. But they seem to be social creatures. They have gotten so used to us that they come quite near when we are sitting on the porch. One even hopped up onto the chair Jon had his feet propped on, crawled up onto Jon's leg and sat there looking at us for a few minutes before he jumped across to the patio table. 
     The male anole that puffs out his throat pouch has come to visit us every day this week. I think he is flirting with me because he puffs out his throat pouch when I talk to him. He seems quite proud of his beautiful throat pouch, his means of attracting mates and laying claim to his territory. I think he is beautiful and I tell him so each time he puffs out his throat.

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  1. That is a very interesting story Terry. Can only imagine how much fun they are because they're so cute.

    1. Thank you. They are cute, just take a little getting used to.
      Thank you for reading and commenting on my article.