Hi, Mr. Nature here–with an animal that possibly lives in your own back yard without your ever having seen it: DeKay’s snake, aka the brown snake.
I know, I know, quite a few of you are afraid of snakes. But these are very small, totally harmless, and of a very meek temperament: I’ve caught many of them by hand, and not one has ever tried to bite me. Anyhow, they couldn’t hurt you if they wanted to, and they seem to know it. Most of them, when caught and handled, calm down in a matter of seconds. They used to be pretty common in my neighborhood, but what with the perpetual war on nature that goes on in New Jersey, it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen one. I miss them.
These little snakes live in leaf litter, where their small size and generally brown or greyish coloration helps them blend into the background. They eat bugs and slugs and grubs, and the occasional earthworm–in fact, they eat a lot of things that any gardener would want them to eat.
Again, they never try to bite when you pick them up. No self-respecting Northern water snake would ever let you get away with that. DeKay’s snake is not a very exciting snake–which is the way I like them.
So there you have it, more of God’s stuff–a little animal that’s pretty to look at, easy to handle, and does no harm whatsoever. It deserves the right to go about its peaceful little business unmolested.
Hi, Mr. Nature here–and this is a baby fruit bat getting petted, and loving it.
You don’t think of bats as creatures that will respond to affection, but obviously they do. I think you can say that of most animals. And I think that tells us something about God’s Creation, and our own place in it. Another kind of animal, under unusual circumstances, might form a bond with a bat. But only a human being, for all our faults, will seek out a bat for that very purpose.
Incidentally, the oldest fossil bat ever discovered was already a full-blown bat, rather like the little guy in the video. Darwin himself worried that his theory would fall apart if no fossils were discovered of any animal on its way to evolving into a bat. His followers are not that honest.
Hi, everybody! Mr. Nature here, filling in for Lee with some of man’s stuff, instead of God’s stuff: the difference being God’s stuff always works, but ours only works sometimes.
News item from a ProMed email:
Nineteen employees of the Winnipeg Regional Health Assembly, at a conference held recently at St. Boniface Hospital, came down with… food poisoning! The event was an “internally catered lecture”–I think that means they got hospital food–and we are told the likely culprit was the sandwiches.
With the best will in the world, anything done by imperfect human beings cannot help going wrong from time to time–sometimes disastrously wrong. Happily, none of these poisoned employees died. And think how the patients at the hospital must have felt, if they heard about it. Bon appetite.
The moral of the story: Never, never, never entrust fallible and often sinful human beings with any more power than you can help giving them. It’s good to limit power with checks and balances!
Hi, Mr. Nature here with some more of God’s stuff: the velvet ant, aka “Cow Killer.” And before you get too cross with the guy who made this video, let me reassure you that it has a happy ending.
The velvet ant is actually a wingless wasp, not a real ant; and it has a stinger that would do any wasp proud. You would be extremely well advised not to pick one up in your bare hand. When you see the size of that sticker, you’ll understand how this bug got its nickname. It can’t actually kill a cow, but you don’t want to mess with it.
Cow killers live down South, and some of you are sure to be familiar with them. They prey on smaller bugs and otherwise do no harm. And you have to admit they have a nice color scheme.
There’s more to Creation than we will ever know.
Hi, Mr. Nature here, introducing the spiny orb-weaver spider. They come in all sorts of bright colors, there are many, many different species of them, they’re found in warm climates all over the world–and the very biggest of them are about the size of a quarter, although most are much smaller than that.
They like to stretch out their webs in gardens, where they eat a lot of bugs that would otherwise eat your plants. They’re related to the big, bright Araneus spiders that we have here in New Jersey. All these spiders build big, showy webs, especially impressive when beaded with the morning dew.
Mrs. Nature and I once had an Araneus spider that decided to go on vacation with us, down to the shore, hitching a ride on my car. Every night she built a new web, anchored on the door and side-view mirror. When a fly or a mosquito flew into it, she pounced. When I had to open the car door she got quite upset. So I tried to avoid opening it at night, but we could hardly abbreviate our vacation on account of a spider.
Even so, it was our turn to be upset when, on the next-to-last evening of the vacation, our spider got blown out of her side-view mirror nest, never to be seen again. We were looking forward to her coming back home with us–which, after all, was where she came from in the first place.
God’s handiwork: you can even get to enjoy spiders, if you let your mind open up a little.
Hi, Mr. Nature here–with a male dobsonfly that has seen better days, but still looks scary.
Legend has it that this insect got its name from a Mrs. Hortense Dobson, who discovered one inside her jump suit and invented several energetic dances while trying to get it out.
When I was 12 years old or so, I found a box on the ground with an enormous dobsonfly in it. You don’t forget that!
Despite their fearsome appearance, these critters are completely harmless and their larvae, called helgrammites, are highly esteemed as fish bait. The larvae look even scarier than the adults.
Isn’t Creation wonderful? God never runs out of ideas.
Hi, Mr. Nature here–with spring peepers.
These tiny little frogs–I just love them!–are the first frogs to come out of hibernation in the winter, and in some places they come out hundreds at a time, and if you’re anywhere nearby, you’ll hear them peeping for all they’re worth to attract mates.
Next, but not just yet, will be the wood frogs; but for the time being, any un-frozen bodies of water belong to the peepers. It’s only mid-February, but my editor in Virginia tells me the peepers in her neighborhood are already tuning up and will soon be in full concert mode.
I love the four seasons God has given us, with their characteristic sights and sounds: a living world, life everywhere you look. And God saw everything that He had made, and, behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:31)
And just imagine what it’ll be like when He regenerates and restores His whole Creation.
Hi, Mr. Nature here with a critter from another world–the mud puppy.
These big salamanders keep their gills all their lives, and although cold-blooded, they seem to thrive in a really chilly environment. Their legs aren’t much for propelling them efficiently when on the land, but these puppies are fast and graceful swimmers. They’ll eat whatever live food they can catch, and have been known to plague ice fishermen.
Why am I showing you this hideous creature? Well, I’m fascinated by these animals. They’re God’s stuff, and they move me to reflect on the infinite options available to God as He was creating the world. It didn’t have to be the world we know today. Fossils show us there were once amphibians, like the mud puppy, as big as crocodiles.
The next time we question what God did do, we might also spare a thought for what He might have done–but didn’t.
No, it’s not a catalogue. It’s a wild bird that has a business relationship with the human beings in its neighborhood. (Thanks to Mike S. for sending us this video.)
Hi, Mr. Nature here. I don’t remember when I first learned about the honey guide. It was either in a “Mark Trail” Sunday color comic strip or one of those Golden stamp and coloring books.
But this bird is really cool. It will lead people to a beehive so they can collect the honey. In return, they share with the bird. This is not something that they teach the bird, so we wonder how the bird learns it. My guess would be from its parents. I’m not interested in any Darwinian fairy tales about “instinct” and “survival strategies.” It’s interaction between people and a wild bird.
It’s God’s stuff, and we love it.
See? No hands!
Poor Mononykus! First they had to change the spelling of its name, because a beetle (!) had already been named “Mononychus.” Then they had to change its original identification as a fossil bird. All in all, a most confusing critter ( https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg13818712-900-science-mongolias-early-bird-fails-the-flight-test/ ).
Hi, Mr. Nature here–and to me the most confusing thing about Mononykus is why any scientist would ever have thought this animal–with its very long neck and very long tail–would have lived the lifestyle of a burrower. That has kind of gone by the boards, recently, but for a while there, you had any number of scientists saying, more or less authoritatively, that “Mononykus was a burrower.”
See, Mononykus had extremely short, but muscular, arms–but no hands. Instead of hands, its forelimbs ended in sharp and stubby spikes.
How could it ever have burrowed without its long neck getting in the way? So now the leading opinion is that Mononykus used its extremely strange forelimbs for tearing open termite mounds for yum-yums.
And so we have another prehistoric puzzle which God has given us. We can’t say He didn’t give us plenty of material in which to exercise our brains.