Jambo! Mr. Nature here–and today our safari need take us no farther than my own back yard.
These little DeKay snakes used to be pretty common around here. I liked to catch them and handle them a bit, then let them go. They’re really tiny–the biggest one I ever caught, a real giant among DeKay snakes, was only about a foot and a half long. Most of them top out around six inches.
Uh… Was I supposed to blog some nooze today? Ah, never mind. God’s stuff is nicer.
The DeKay snake in this video has just had babies, live birth instead of eggs. You really wonder how she could have carried so many babies–but don’t ask me to count them.
These snakes eat bugs and slugs, so it’s good to have them in your garden. I wish we still did.
Greenland sharks can live under the polar ice cap and occasionally come down as far south as the St. Lawrence River. They can grow up to 20 feet long, but they’re most closely related to dogfish–the little sharks you catch when you’re trying to catch something else.
Five hundred years old would make this shark the oldest living vertebrate on the planet.
To me this is the quintessential sound of a summer night. We’ve always had katydids in our neighborhood; and yes, they really do sound like they’re saying “Katy did, Katy didn’t.” By far the world’s longest-running stupid argument.
Depending on the species, they can make a lot of different sounds, and some of the tropical species are as big as your hand. The ones around here are about the size of your thumb. Like the one that tried to climb up Patty’s pants-leg (still laughing over the ensuing war dance…).
The spider that set up shop in our kitchen window is still there and still gobbling up flies at a truly admirable pace. Yesterday she caught and finished off a lantern fly, at least twice her size–but he’s just spider-dinny now.
Admittedly it’s a little bit disgusting. A lot of people would just vacuum away the whole business. But flies were really vexing us when this little spider came along, and it strikes us as deeply ungrateful to molest her. If all the spiders outdoors were like her, we wouldn’t be bothered by flies.
It’s raining today–a quiet, steady rain–and it brings me back to a vivid memory of my childhood.
We lived right next door to the woods, and sometimes when it rained, box turtles would come out of the woods and parade across our back yard. Because I was such a little child, I remember them as being eye-poppingly large turtles.
We had a screened-in back porch, with a glider. My mother liked to read out there on rainy days. And I remember her calling excitedly, “Oh, come and look! Come and see the turtles!”
And there they’d be, strolling across our back yard in the rain. Usually three or them at once. We thought they must be a family; but box turtles don’t live in family groups. It was just a few turtles doing the same thing.
Where were they going, and why? Was it always the same couple of turtles? Our little woods was rich in wildlife. My friend and I once saw a huge enormous horned owl who scared us silly. And with all the wild blackberry patches, there were always plenty of turtles.
It hardly needs to be said that the lovely little woodland, with its turtles and blackberries, has been erased by developers and politicians who say They Protect The Planet and Look Out For The Public Interest by enriching themselves and screwing everybody else.
But it was a beautiful world, the way God made it.
One of the glories of my childhood was The Golden Treasury of National History by Bertha Morris Parker, copyright 1952. That painting of the plesiosaur (above) is one of my all-time favorite pictures. Hours and hours and hours I spent in that book! And it left me with a lifelong fascination for animals past and present.
Patty got me a used copy for my birthday last year, and I resort to it sometimes when I’m feeling stressed, tired, or just hung out to dry. I did that today.
Okay, a lot of the science in the book–especially with regard to life in the distant prehistoric past–is hooey. Even as our science today will be tomorrow’s hooey. I don’t blame Bertha Morris Parker, whose work I admire very much. She had to go with the science that she had. But really, I doubt the giant ground sloths went extinct because they never found a comfortable place to rest their claws. Or that dinosaurs vanished because they just didn’t have enough sense to adapt to changing conditions. It was 1952 settled science.
What I love here is the vastness and the intricacy of God’s creation, the enduring mysteries of life on earth, and the overwhelming “Wow!” factor I find in giant prehistoric animals. And happy childhood memories are a plus–my Uncle Bernie reading to me from the book and having the devil’s own time trying to pronounce the dinosaurs’ name: and me not correcting him because I loved him and knew that he was reading to me because he loved his brother’s children.
And now I’m getting a little teary-eyed, so I guess I’d better stop.
A certain businessman once said, “I didn’t get where I am today by messing about with earwigs!” But he was missing something.
Jambo, Mr. Nature here–with earwigs. The ones in the video are bigger than the ones we find in our gardens, but otherwise the same.
I’ve always wondered about those “pincers” on the south end of a northbound earwig. All the other bugs have their pincers up front, like politicians. So having them where a tail ought to be seems an odd procedure. But it works for them.
These “cerci,” as scientists call them, function just like real pincers. They might as well be real pincers: male earwigs fight with them. I never knew that–did you? So, yes, an earwig could pinch you if you picked it up in your hand; but the damage would be so minimal as to be hardly worth mentioning.
Don’t panic if you find some in your garden. They mind their own business and will not harm your fruits or flowers. They won’t harm you, either.