Sunday, July 29, 2007

Master Naturalist Wanna Be takes a walk

In my last post I mentioned a blue tailed skink.
I'll bet you thought I was making that up.
Skinks are just a kind of lizard, with short legs, and not much of a neck.
As adults, the blue tailed skink tail stops being blue.
So this guy in the picture below is just a kid.
They are also sometimes called a Five Line Lizard.
Can you guess why?

All around the area where the blue tailed skinks were hanging out were dragonflies.
They would zoom along, then land on the sand, pulsing their wings.
The four spotted dragonfly above looked like he was trying to send a semaphore message using his wing markers as flags.
It's body looked like a guy with brown hair, blue shirt and white pants, with arms outstretched holding flags. Wonder what the message was?

It amuses me that the other kind of dragon fly in the area had almost a photo negative image about its wing design; clear in the middle and colored on the end.
I have learned to look whenever I see the slightest unusual movement around me as I walk.
A quick bounce, twice, of what seemed to be an acorn caught my eye; an acorn wouldn't bounce twice in a straight line across the path.
It took a second to see it, but there he was, Mr. Toad blending into his environment.
I hear Frog and Toad are Friends.
I wonder if my garden froggie knows this guy?
Toad was about the size of a milk bottle cap, and very shy.

About two weeks ago I spotted this interesting project.
I have no idea what it is, or who is building it.
It looks like someone is burrowing, and carefully daubing the mud from the excavation around the opening of the hole, making a very neat little fortress wall.

Since my first photo, the fortress size has doubled, it is now about ten inches tall.
The on-going rainstorms have soften the earlier daubs, but there is clearly fresh activity in this project, as the top area is well defined.
If this gets any taller, they are going to need to get a building permit!

On my first observation of the dauber fortress I also saw this gorgeous snake squiggled in a neat pile, like beads on a string that had been dropped into a heap.
It was about a foot away from the dauber's work, but clearly not a part of the project.
I switched on my camera as fast as I could, but the snake was faster than I was, and glided rapidly away into the mulch around the base of a tree.

"Red touches yellow, kill the fellow (or stay away from the fellow), red touches black, poison lack (or friend of Jack) " is the saying to tell whether a black, yellow and red banded snake is harmless or venomous.

Yes, it was a coral snake, and a very large coral snake at that.
It must have just molted, as it's colors were glistening and vibrant. Unless I wanted to stomp on him, or beat him with my camera, I was fresh out of options to kill the fellow, so he got to live another day in peace.

It really amazes me that my reaction to a venomous snake now is to try to get a picture, instead of jumping and screaming and trying to run away.
Bernie is SO pleased.
I even had a dream the other night that I was walking to the beach by my childhood home, and in a vacant lot there were loads of copperheads of all sizes, and an old wheel barrow full of a huge bright blue and black snake. In my dream I was going "Darn, I wish Bernie was here, he would just love seeing all these snakes!"
This is a real improvement over how I used to wake up screaming if a snake showed up in my dreams. I guess true love really does change a person!

I may have mentioned before that the forests by my house all have decomposed granite pathways and raised wooden walkways so I feel pretty safe walking around. As long as I stay on the path, it is unlikely I will stumble across anything, as creatures who might be crossing the path usually scramble as they don't like being caught out in the open.
In the picture above you can glimpse the edge of the lake.
If you look a the base of the tree that is tipped side ways, which is about ten feet from a raised wooden walk way, and then look straight up above it, between the two most forward trees, this is the area which next caught my eye.
Look closely: Can you see a web?
Can you see the spider at the top of the web, just slightly to your right of top middle?

It took a lot of courage for me to step off the walk way to get close enough to get a picture of the spider. I did a lot of looking before I gingerly stepped into the wet grassy area next to the walkway.
I just HAD to get a picture of this spider!
Her body was as big as the palm of my hand. I have NEVER seen such a big spider in all my life...she was so big I spotted her from the walkway, and her web filled up the entire area between the two trees, taking up as much space as a queen sized sheet.
She's an Argiope, also known as a Writing Spider, and Yellow Garden Spider.

I had one in my garden in San Diego for a while, but this one was like the Queen of all Argiope. They are supposed to only get to be about two inches big in the body, this one was at least five inches big. I think she could catch a bird if she felt like it.

Another picture of the web; Ms. Argiope is up at the top, with just her feet showing.
Later on I saw another Argiope. This one had her mate with her.
The tiny spider is a male Argiope.
Hopefully I will eventually get to see one of their egg sacks.
They are good family spiders, Mom puts the egg nest on the web close to her so she can keep on eye on it.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our walk today. I'm sorry that I erased the picture of the rabbit that I took at the begining of the walk. Once I got home, I had forgotten why I had taken that picture; the bunny blended in so well I didn't see him and thought it was a boring picture so I deleted it in Picasa.
I can still see it on my camera on the chip, but for some reason, once I deleted it on Picasa, it will no longer let me load it onto my computer.

Oh well. There is always another bunny out there somewhere.
I'll just have to go and take another walk!


Lovella said...

I feel like Mrs. Snodgras should be handing out bluebird badges.

Well, you should get one anyways, I might not since I felt a tad squeamish when I clicked to enlarge all the photos.

You are super brave, does Mr. B know you stepped off the boardwalk?

You did a fabulous job of capturing the wild life there.

Kate said...

I enjoyed taking your walk with you, Jill. That construction out of mud is a crawfish hut. As they dig down they sling the mud up, I am told. Love the gorgeous garden spider too!

For some reason Blogger has decided to give me comment instructions in Deutsch now! K Q:-)

Ladygrande said...

Yep, Kate is right! That "building" is being done by "crawdads" as we called them growing up in Houston. They would have little cities of these in the deep ditches all around. We would tie a piece of bacon on the end of a string and coax them out. My brothers would play with them, but I just thought them yukky! No way would be have eaten them like some do. Eewwwww!!!

Love the pictures you took on your walk. What a spider!


Laura said...

***shutter*** I could do without the snakes, bugs and especially without the spiders. Yuck!

Julie said...

I'm really not sure I should have come on your walk just before going to bed!!
Your 'red touches yellow' is definitely not something I would want to wear ! even if it does look like beads!
I have never seen a snake like that...nor a skink! (or heard of them!)
And that spider is too huge for comfort! Does he bite too?

I am sorry your bunny didn't make it on the post, I think he could have saved me from nightmares!!

Otis & Indee said...

are crawdads good fer eatin'?

Becky said...

I guess Texas either makes you brave, or makes you move away. I can't see myself living there yet. We have fairly large hairy spiders, but nothing like that queen size! One thing we hate stepping on when going for walks are slugs. They can get pretty juicy and large too. No, nothing to fear here except the queezy feeling of gooey slippery gunk on the bottom of your shoe. Can you imagine the size of Texas slugs?!?