Monday, June 28, 2010

Some Stages of Metamorphosis Are Butt Ugly

After doing some more chores and spending about an hour in the garden deadheading roses, I loaded up the camera and went for a solo walk. I did a sweaty uphill climb to a neighbor's gate and then headed down to the river. I wanted to see if the Bullock's Orioles were still around near last year's nest (no) and as I came up to the top of the little hill where I was going to watch for them, I scared up a wild pig from his afternoon siesta. It was just the one and I can't imagine how it was I got so close since I was huffing and puffing up the hill, tromping through dry grass, snapping branches and generally making noise. Off he went at a good clip.

When I got to the river, I saw a pond turtle make a movement and then hide next to a big rock. He then did a really good imitation of a rock himself - if he hadn't moved, I never would have seen him. I took some pictures, but oddly enough, it looks like I took photos of a rock.

Not far from the turtle/rock, I saw this big tadpole - it's a European bullfrog. Not a pretty sight. That sort of short stick thing to the left of it is actually a wiggly nymph of some insect - blech, there are certain life forms that give me the shudders.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Small and the Shed

The first thing that happened after I'd gotten the groceries unpacked Friday night was that my husband pulled me into the garage to show me these:

Baby spiders! A fresh hatch - there were easily a hundred of them and so small that they looked more like flecks of sawdust on the web. I'm surprised my camera captured anything at all. (Note to self - start saving for that macro lens you want.) Although we - well, Dino actually - just cleared out a huge black widow web with attendant BW, we are pretty sure these are not her babies, they are actually rather more of a light brown color pre-Photoshop.

After that, we took another mini-nature walk to the lower garden where there was a shed snake skin - a perfect shed with no fraying on the skin at all. Don't know what kind of snake, but not a rattler. This snake was long and thin; the skin was a little more than four feet long with a tail that tapered to nothing more than the thinnest pencil-lead width tip. Maybe a whipsnake?

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Yesterday, while clearing out an area of the lower garden where some "stuff" had been temporarily stored, we found a metal screen with diamond-shaped holes about 3/4" wide. In one of the holes was a fence lizard. It had gotten its head, one front leg and shoulder through the mesh but its belly was too plump and it got stuck. It looked dead. We set the screen aside and continued with our tasks. When the time came to find a place for the screen, I picked it up and while admiring the lovely blue belly of the lizard - since it's difficult to get a good look at them what with their ability to run fast - it started struggling! It was still alive! The lizard rescue team sprang into action.

We took the screen to the operating room, aka the picnic table. We gathered the surgical tools. The assistant (me) held the screen firmly while the surgeon carefully yet forcefully made several cuts in the wire and slowly moved the cut ends away from the body of the patient. The surgeon gently nudged the lizard back through the mesh until its entire body was free and we placed the mesh on the ground in the recovery area. The lizard stayed motionless for quite some time while we went about our other tasks. We were a little concerned that the lizard would end up as food for someone else, so I found a cardboard box top and assembled a little shelter. When I went to find a rock to prop up the top, that galvanized the lizard to find its legs and off it went at high speed to hide in the culvert. Long term prognosis: unknown. We're pretty sure it won't come back for a follow-up visit.

Other items on the beautification project to-do list: I got the upper garden weeding project done in substance yesterday - I'll do a second pass today through some of the original areas but it's looking good right now.
Dino has been extremely busy this last week - looks like he has plans for more next week - in continuing to knock back the dang thistles.

In other doings - last weekend a friend came for an overnight visit. We decided to play tourist and went for a steam train ride on the Yosemite Sugar Pine logger. The whistle blew, the wheels of the train went clickety-clack, it was grand fun.

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