If you live by the water or you live near a swamp (and who down here doesn't?), you know exactly what we're talking about. There aren't many places in the contiguous 48 states where parrots and iguanas breed with impunity -- come to think of it, most of the country isn't known for an abundance of bright-green wildlife at all. From a downtown Fort Lauderdale riverfront cottage, we watched raccoons and red foxes foraging, shiny silver smelt and mullet spawning, and a variety of colorful lizards leaping, including the basilisk (or "Jesus lizard"), plus snakes like black racers. A nest of burrowing owls and their babies in the backyard. Of course, not all members of our prodigious critter kingdom are welcome, hellacious bugs in particular. But especially for transplants from colder climes, the sight of screaming, dive-bombing streaks of monk parrots or the sight of a four-foot iguana sunning itself on a deck while chomping on hibiscus flowers is a surreal reality.

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