May 2018 Archives

TurtleMLB and I were walking to the mailbox this morning when we spotted a big turtle in the shade of a tree about 25 feet from the street (and about that same distance from the creek that I presume is its home).
It wasn't moving, which was odd, so we walked over to investigate. It withdrew partway into its shell, but made no attempt to get back to the water.

We're not turtle experts, but the way the back half of the turtle was positioned in a shallow muddy depression seemed to indicate some nesting behavior.


We watched it for a couple of minutes, and not observing anything of apparent consequence, we continued our stroll to the mailbox and then back home.

After about an hour, we decided to check on la tortuga -- which we tentatively identified as a red-eared slider --  to see if we could make any more sense out of its behavior. I took a video camera just in case there was anything worth recording, and we were rewarded with this:

In case you're wondering, I did indeed feel a [admittedly illogical] twinge of privacy-violating guilt in videoing at such close quarters.

If you watched carefully, you saw two eggs being deposited into the muddy hole that passes for a turtle nest. According to the Wikipedia article linked above, this species will lay 2-30 eggs at one time (which is quite a span). The eggs take between two and four months to hatch, and the youngsters will not enter the water until almost three weeks after hatching. That would seem to be when they are most vulnerable to predators.

We debated putting up some kind of cage around the nest to prevent any disturbance but ultimately decided to let nature take its course. We're not lacking for turtles in the creek, and I'm not really interested in monitoring a nest until next fall to make sure that any hatchlings can get out of whatever cage we might build to keep predators from getting in.

In addition, when we returned for one last check, the turtle was gone and so was the "nest." Well, not gone gone, but good luck figuring out where it is. That mama turtle is a camouflage master.

Turtle Nest
Can you spot the nest?

As I've often observed on these pages, the world of nature never ceases to astonish and amaze.

Signs. And wonders.
May 5, 2018 5:01 PM | Posted in:

Me, blogging

Hiya. Happy Cinco de Mayo. I would have written that en espaƱol, but I've been informed by some people with too much time on their hands that it's not really a generally-observed Mexican holiday, but only an excuse to eat tacos and guacamole, and drink Coronas and margaritas. To which I respectfully respond: and your point is...?

Anyway, today's subject is signs. Also pictograms, which are just signs made by third graders. I have an extensive collection to share with you today, and by "extensive" I mean three.

My pal Tommy recently bought a tractor, and I drove it. It has cruise control, because when you're going three miles per hour, you can't be distracted by having to keep your foot on a pedal. Although now that I think about it, I can't remember if the throttle was foot-controlled. But I digress.

The tractor is covered with pictograms, mostly attempting to describe all the potentially fatal things one can suffer while driving a tractor (of which there are many; the primary purpose of owning a tractor is apparently not to drive it), but mainly succeeding in being unintentionally hilarious. OK, amusing.

Like this one:

I still like 'use this tractor with a beach ball' better

Frankly, I can't think of many things a tractor is better suited for than an exciting game of catch using a beach ball. (If you have no sense of humor, you can click on the preceding image to see the uncropped but much less fun sign.)

Then there's this one, inscribed on a tube affixed to the deck of the tractor and which, frankly, took four of us chronologically adult persons several minutes of collective conjecture before we figured it out.

For the life of me, I can't imagine why the graphic designer thought that a pictogram instructing the tractor operator to pick up and drink a thermos of coffee, then read a book, and then put the thermos down could possibly ever be interpreted as "open this tube to read the tractor manual."

Finally, while this isn't technically a sign or even a pictogram, it's close enough and this is my blog. We recently received a FedEx delivery and apparently our location is still something of a mystery to that company's GPS system. Some enterprising logistics specialist determined that the treeware solution was the ideal approach to making sure the package arrived at the indended destination. In this digital age, it's nice to know that analog still works.

Snake Mistake
May 2, 2018 8:33 PM | Posted in: ,

"Eric...come quick!"

I was sitting in the office late yesterday afternoon when I heard MLB's overly excited summons from somewhere in the middle of the house. I ran out to find her staring out the living room windows at something in the front courtyard. 

"Oh, man. That's a water moccasin. Keep an eye on him while I grab a hoe!" 

I scurried into the garage, found the hoe, and hurried to the courtyard where MLB was keeping an eye on the snake...albeit still through the window. It was still and stretched out in front of the window, not at all exercised about my presence.

Blotched Water Snake (in our courtyard)

I started to behead the serpent when I noticed my neighbor across the street visiting with a man who was working on the new house next door. I yelled at them to come over. "Wanna see a water moccasin?!" They hurried over.

The neighbor stayed behind the fence to observe the proceedings, but the other man rushed into the courtyard with an obvious expression of interest on his face. 

"That's a water moccasin, alright, but it's not a cottonmouth," he asserted. I was immediately confused and mentally docked points from his herpetological knowledge score. But the more he talked, the more it sounded like he did, indeed, know his snakes.

"It's not poisonous, and I wouldn't kill it," he said. I was still skeptical, but he began to lay out his supporting argument. It sounded logical, although as the snake continued to strike aggressively at the business end of the hoe blocking its path, I wasn't completely convinced. He continued, "if you won't kill it, I'll take it away."

"Uh...OK. But first...where, exactly, do you live?" I wanted to make sure he wasn't going to drive a block or two and let it go. It turns out that he lives 20+ miles down the highway, has a neighbor who works for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, and the two of them often collaborate on wildlife issues.

Having established his sincerity, I agreed to try to herd the snake into a moving box that MLB had brought from inside the house. The reptile wasn't initially keen to go where we wanted it to go, but we finally managed to persuade it to crawl into the cardboard box, and the gentleman happily hauled it over to his pickup.

He was working at the new house this morning when we returned after a run, and he flagged us down. I asked him how the snake release went, and he said that it slithered into the Pedernales River and immediately vanished. He said they measured the snake at more than three feet in length. "I also identified the species," he said as he opened his pickup door and pulled out a guide to Texas snakes. "It's a blotched water snake." It took him a while to rifle through the pages (Texas is home to a LOT of snakes) but when he finally found it, it did indeed seem to be "our" snake.

In reading more about the blotched water snake -- which, by the way, seems to be a highly uncomplimentary name, but I suppose the snake has no objections -- I learned that it is often mistaken for a cottonmouth. But the latter's eyes has elliptical pupils, while the harmless water snakes all have round pupils (see photo below). I'll leave it to you to decide how close you need to get to make that distinction. There are a few other physical and behavioral differences between the "good" and "bad" snakes, and they're worth learning if you live in an area where the latter are found, AND you don't subscribe to a philosophy that the only good snake is a dead one.

Comparison of eyes of non-venomous and venomous snakes

We all agreed that there was no good reason to kill non-venomous snakes, and several good ones for having them around (rodent control being at the top of the list). Nevertheless, I still wasn't willing to concede that venomous snakes found in a neighborhood were worthy of the same consideration, a position he advocates.

Now, having said that, we're still not keen on the idea of having even the good ones lurking around in our flowerbeds and lawns. Heart attacks are generally even more fatal than snake bites!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2018 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2018 is the previous archive.

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