I love sitting on our back porch in the early morning. It's usually dark when I come out, and at first my only company is the insects and the frogs. A little later I can often see the armadillo as he leaves his burrow and goes out on his explorations through a small hole in the fence. As dawn approaches the birds start to wake up. Most common are the Carolina wrens and the cardinals, though there are many more, including owls, hawks, crows, tufted titmice, and unidentified warblers. Soon squirrels are scampering through the trees and across the screened enclosure that covers the pool. If I ignore the traffic noises, the air conditioners, the pool pumps, and the neighbor behind us who gets up early and likes to smoke on his porch, it's a very peaceful time.
Today I went out at about 5:30, and I sat there listening, except for a five to ten minute period when I ducked inside to attend to something in the kitchen. When it was light, I started walking my customary laps around the pool. Shortly before seven o'clock, I heard a small noise from one of the trees, and looked up, expecting to see a squirrel.
Apparently we grow our squirrels on the large side here in Florida.
That photo was taken by our neighbor, Carol; we called them over despite the early hour, knowing how much they would want to see this visitor. The Florida black bear is not uncommon in the neighborhood, but we'd never seen one on our street, let alone in our yard. We're not as close to the bear as you might think; Carol was shooting with a 400 mm lens. The video below was taken with my cell phone and gives you a better sense of the geography of the situation.
At that point we decided it prudent to stand a bit closer to the door to the house, but after descending the tree, he (definitely confirmed to be a male) squeezed back through the hole he had created for himself (Porter's photo), and went on his way. We were lucky he didn't take down a whole section of the fence.
My question is this: Did the bear come into the yard and climb the tree during the short time I was back in the house? Or had he been comfortably ensconced on the branch the whole time I was sitting on the porch in the dark? I'm inclined to believe the former, because when I'm out there I'm listening for and sensitive to unusual noises. But he was amazingly quiet in his moves for something so large, and the idea that he was sitting there the whole time is something to ponder!