Yesterday we posted a video of an opossum fooling two dogs by playing dead–“playing possum.” The act can fool humans, too.
But voila! Here’s a harmless little snake that does the same thing. If he feels threatened, the hognosed snake will put on a fierce threat display; and if it doesn’t work–well, then it’s time to play dead. Upside down, tongue hanging motionless: he’ll even release a chemical that makes him smell dead.
Hognosed snakes in zoos and homes stop playing dead because they don’t feel threatened anymore. As the top item on their menu is live toads, I don’t recommend them as pets. But it’s cool that God gave two such widely unrelated animals the same almost-unique from of self-defense.
Jambo! Mr. Nature here–with a reminder that even though our key social and political institutions can be debauched and broken by human wickedness and stupidity, and stolen out from under us by Democrats… God’s stuff still works.
Behold the flounder, which most of us know best as fillets in the seafood section of our supermarket. Many of us have caught them on hook and line. But how many of us have ever seen them change color? Well, not many, because it happens underwater.
But change color they do, like the chameleon, like the octopus; and being flat, with both eyes on the same side of the head (the top side), helps them to hide in the sand. Oddly enough, when they’re born, the eyes are on opposite sides, like they are in other fish. They migrate as the flounder matures. Actually I think that’s even more remarkably odd than the color-changing.
All these weird little things about the flounder–put them all together, and you have a very successful fish.
Red efts are immature Eastern newts. They live on land instead of in the water. When they grow up, they turn green and head for the nearest pond.
I can’t think of any other animal clad in this vermilion shade, and I’ve never seen video that quite fully captures the brilliance of this color. The eft can afford to be conspicuous: any animal that eats one has poisoned itself. Like toads, efts’ skin is full of toxic chemicals.
It’s easy enough to refraid from eating them; and we can enjoy their gorgeous color to our hearts’ content.
The sun came out yesterday, and so did I. And I was sitting in my chair, writing, when I chanced to look up… and saw a full-grown buck with antlers trotting across the yard, just ten feet away from me. I couldn’t repress a “Well, look at you!” The deer paused to look back at me, then continued on his way.
I know this is no big deal for a lot of you; but this is the New Jersey suburbs. I’ve lived here all my life and this was the first free-running deer I ever saw with antlers. When I was a boy and you wanted to see a deer, you went either to a deer park or the zoo.
My neighbor tells me the deer are living behind St. Francis’ Convent, just across the street from us. They’re safe there. I like to think of them under St. Francis’ protection.
That buck was the best thing I saw all day yesterday. God’s stuff. It’s all around us, He has not abandoned us, nor will He.
Yesterday I was outside, writing, and it was a sunny morning but, well, cold. Sitting in my chair in the shade, I was cold.
I chanced to look down, and was surprised to see a beautiful monarch butterfly clumsily trying to crawl over the grass. I wanted to help, but sometimes when you intervene in nature, you make things worse. Eventually Mr. Do-Good won out. I decided the monarch’s problem was that he was too cold to function properly–but I could fix that.
The thing to do is to let the butterfly crawl onto your hand. Monarchs have a lot of self-confidence because they know the birds won’t eat them–not unless they want to get sick. Monarch butterflies are pull of nasty milkweed juice, which they absorb as caterpillars.
Once I had the monarch perched on my finger like a canary, I brought him to a warm and sunny place and got him to crawl onto a plant. He rested there for just two or three minutes, flexing his wings in the sun–and then took off, last seen flying over the roof on his way to wherever he was going. And I felt blessed.
We once fished one of these out of Barnegat Bay and let him rest in our boat until his wings were dry and he could fly away.
You can’t beat this–a wise and kindly dog, four baby bunnies who think the dog’s their mother, and a friendly parakeet. All they need is a benevolent iguana. And all of them cuddling on somebody’s bed. I believe this is a glimpse of what God has in store for us: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:9).
Mr. Nature here, with possibly the oddest creature on the planet–Australia’s famous duck-billed platypus. In fact, the animal is so odd that when the first specimens arrived in England, scientists thought it was a hoax.
The platypus is a mammal, or so they say. But it has some weird un-mammalian features.
It lays eggs.
Its legs are positioned out to the side, as in reptiles, instead of directly underneath the body, as in most mammals.
The babies hatch out of the eggs with teeth, but lose them later on.
The male has poisonous heel spurs that can inflict intense pain on a human being. Very few mammals are equipped with venom: only the solenodon springs to mind. But lots of snakes, and some lizards, are poisonous.
But the platypus does have hair, and plenty of it, the mother nurses the babies on milk, and as far as the science of taxonomy is concerned, platypuses are mammals in good standing–not some weird little group of their own that displays both mammalian and reptilian features. That went out with the Triassic Period.
Here at Chez Leester, we’ve actually had this experience. Bunny has babies in our garden, babies grow up, babies come out of the garden and hang out with you. They haven’t learned to be afraid of people.
Just a little foretaste of a thoroughly restored Creation. Probably one without The Washington Post.
Jambo! Mr. Nature here, in the Horn of Africa–and so is the elephant shrew.
Actually, this cute little guy didn’t “return” from anywhere. He’d never left. But for 50 years or so, scientists couldn’t find any–although the local people said yeah, sure, they’re still around. But now, finally, science has rediscovered the elephant shrew–with the aid of no-kill traps baited with… peanut butter. Somebody had a bright idea!
As tiny as it is, the elephant shrew is most closely related to aardvarks, manatees… and the elephant. Or so they tell me.
And if it had been a cryptozoologist who’d rediscovered it, he would have succeeded himself right out of a job.