April 2020 Archives

We have a loquat tree in our back yard. The loquat is native to China but has a widespread range; in the USA, however, it's generally limited to southern states. We had never seen one before we moved to Horseshoe Bay, and even here they're not very common, but we've grown fond of it. It's an evergreen and its big leaves provide us with some privacy during the winter months when most other trees drop their leaves. When it flowers, it attracts bees and butterflies, and the hummingbirds like to sit on its branches to keep watch over the feeders.

Photo - the loquat tree in our back yard

If you're unfamiliar with loquats, here's a quick primer. They're in the same family (Rosaceae) as roses, photinia, and pyracantha, as well as fruit-bearing plants such as apples, pears, strawberries, plums, cherries, peaches, and apricots. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), they're not botanically related to the kumquat.

The loquat fruit is not large -- about the size of a golf ball -- and ripens in the spring to early summer. The taste varies from tangy to sweet depending on the variety and the ripeness; some describe it as a combination of peach, citrus, and mango.

Why am I waxing so eloquently about the tree? Simply this: we have a bumper crop of loquats this spring, I suppose because of the mild winter and abundant rain. We've never had enough to even catch our attention...much less harvest and eat. Well, I tasted one; Debbie has eaten a couple. I wasn't that impressed with the flavor, and we agreed that in one respect they're like crawfish: a lot of work goes into getting just a tiny taste.

Nevertheless, something enjoys them...and therein lies the mystery.

Debbie harvested a grocery sack full of them, either directly from the tree or off the ground. After we decided that they wouldn't become a staple of our quarantine diet, she tossed them over the back fence as potential food for birds and critters. One day she disposed of 20 or 30; they disappeared overnight.

I theorized that some of our omnivorous varmints -- possums, skunks, raccoons...possibly even armadillos, although they were at the bottom of my list of suspects -- were dining on the fruit. We were anxious to identify the gluttons, so we scattered some more fruit between the fence and the creek and I placed a game camera in hopes of solving the mystery. And that's exactly what happened around 3:00 a.m. this morning.

Slide the vertical yellow bar to the left in the following photo to reveal the identify of the loquat-gobbling visitor:

Photo - Loquats on ground 'Photo - Deer eating loquats

While armadillos were at the bottom of my list of suspects, deer didn't even make the list. But the photographic evidence is clear: at least one of them is hooked on loquats.

I also edited one of the videos from the gamecam into an animated gif (see below), and if you look closely, you can tell that it's a buck by the just-beginning-to-bud antlers.

The deer didn't consume all the loquats, and I'm not sure why. About 45 minutes after the deer appeared and then left, a possum entered the scene but didn't seem to express any interest in the fruit. Shortly after that, a strong storm rolled through, and that might have limited the appearance of additional diners. Regardless, we now know that whitetail deer are not only vegetarians, but also fruitatarians (that's a technical scientific term).

By the way, the seeds in loquats contain a cyanide compound, similar to that in apricot pits. I wonder if whatever is chowing down on them experiences any ill aftereffects as a result.

Animated gif - Game camera movie of a deer eating a loquat

Hawk Gawk / Drone Moan
April 26, 2020 2:05 PM | Posted in: ,

The pair of red-shouldered hawks in our neighborhood have built a nest in a huge oak tree in the lot just to the west of our house. I wasn't completely confident of this fact until yesterday, but the circumstantial evidence was pretty strong.

We could see a mass of twigs and small limbs waaaay up in the tree, and we guessed that it was a nest, but because of its placement and the other foliage, there's no clear line of sight to it. However, we often saw one or two hawks fly to and from the tree...but, again, no line of sight to confirm they were visiting the nest-like mass.

So, yesterday morning I charged up a couple of batteries for my drone and launched it from our driveway, thinking that perhaps I'd have better luck spying on the nest from above. It was rather breezy and I had some trouble maneuvering the drone, but I soon discovered that there was no clear path to the nest from that side of the tree, so I landed the drone, intending to try again today when it might be more calm. 

Even though I had no luck spotting the nest, both hawks flew out of the tree and around the drone a couple of times. I was curious to see if one of them might attack the little aircraft, but they didn't seem overly aggressive. (I was to later discover that there was a greater threat than protective hawks.)

Fortunately, the wind died down later in the afternoon, so I again launched the drone and flew it to the other side of the tree, opposite from our house. From there, I took it up to an altitude of about 50-60', pointed the camera downward and -- voila! -- an amazing scene appeared:

Photo - Nesting red-shouldered hawk (drone photo)

Here's better view:

Photo - Closeup of nesting red-shouldered hawk (drone photo)

The drone hovered about 6-10' above the nest and I recorded video for a couple of minutes. I was happy to see that the hawk never seemed to acknowledge its presence, much less appear agitated.

I mentioned above that some non-hawk-related drama occurred. I piloted the drone back to the driveway where I intended to land it. It was hovering calmly at about 6' when I tried to activate the auto-land control on my phone, but instead of settling gently into my outstretched hand, it shot straight up into the branches of another oak tree shading the drive and became hopelessly entangled, twenty-five feet above my head. Well, great. I felt like Linus, staring mournfully at his mangled kite in the grip of that predatory tree.

The drone's green and gray color scheme was a perfect camouflage, and it would have been difficult to even determine its location but for the glowing lights from the trapped-but-still-activated craft. 

Photo - Drone trapped in tree

By the way, normally there are two green lights and two red ones. Four glowing crimson lights indicate a malfunction. Gee...ya think?

My MacGyver instincts kicked in. One approach would be to cut down the century oak, but that was possibly a bit extreme. I needed something with a thirty foot reach to dislodge the drone.

Fortunately, another dominant instinct is hoarding, and I still have a decades-old windsurfing mast which is fifteen feet in length. I had attached a small plastic rake on the end and I was using the contraption to clean leaves off the roof and gutters. That extended the length to seventeen feet.

I got a stepladder out of the garage and the second highest rung added five feet to the reach. If you're doing the math, we're now at 22 feet. I needed only eight more feet and I cleared that distance with my own wingspan, holding the mast+rake assembly at arm's length.

With Debbie steadying the ladder, I was able to dislodge the drone, which came crashing down in a decidedly ungraceful fashion. It hit the pavers pretty hard, sending the battery flying in one direction while the drone bounced the other way. Not good. (In hindsight...how hard would it have been to spread a blanket or two under the tree to cushion the inevitable fall? I guess that's [one reason] why I was never cast in the role of the actual MacGyver.)

Upon closer inspection, I was relieved to see that the damage was actually fairly minimal. One of the rotor assemblies was a bit cockeyed (see photo below), but when I popped a battery back in and tested the drone, it lifted off and hovered in place quite steadily. Apparently the operating system is sophisticated enough to allow for variation in the rotor's position.

Photo - Drone damage

I was able to bend the rotor assembly back into place and I suspect there will be no issues with flight, although I won't know for sure until I can put the drone through its paces in the great outdoors. (Update: I did just that a couple of hours ago, and while the drone still flies well, it doesn't reliably respond to instructions. There's either some circuitry damage, or it no longer trusts my piloting expertise.)

I have no idea what caused the mishap. After discussing it with my pal Tommy, another drone pilot, we theorize that the automatic Return To Home (RTH) feature kicked in just as I tried to initiate the landing. The RTH is designed to bring the drone back to safety when the battery reaches a critically low condition, ensuring that it doesn't land abruptly (aka "crashing") in an untenable position...like, say, in a tree. The situation oozes with irony.

Back to the birds. I don't want to intrude on their personal space, but at the same time, I really want to monitor the nesting situation, especially if/when the eggs hatch. So, I plan to check on things every few days. If you're interested in the progress, I'll be posting updates on the Gazette as they occur. And I hope none of them involve any rescue or recovery attempts!

√Čtude de clarinette
April 20, 2020 9:08 PM | Posted in:

Warning: Some extreme band geekiness layeth ahead.

Alert Gazette readers will recall that part of my shelter-in-place regimen is re-learning to play the clarinet after a longer-than-many-of-you-have-been-alive layoff. I'm semi-happy to report that I'm getting semi-better due to my semi-disciplined approach to practicing semi-regularly.

Closeup photo of part of my clarinetDespite the optimism expressed in that post, I was not at all pleased with my progress at the beginning. Even though the muscle memory of which notes required which finger placements came back quickly enough, the actual sound I produced was far from music to my ears.

I thought about blaming myself, but it's much easier to blame the equipment, so I embarked upon an upgrade program, focusing on the mouthpiece.

The mouthpiece assembly consists of three parts: the mouthpiece itself, the reed, and the ligature. All of those parts dated back to my high school days, meaning they were just newer than when they were carved out of stone by a technician/band director named Grog.

After doing a bit of research, I went with a Vandoren M13 Lyre mouthpiece, Vandoren 56 rue Lepic (3.5 hardness) reeds, and a Vandoren Optimum ligature.

The trend is obvious, right? I don't know if Vandoren is the premier manufacturer of accessories for the clarinet (and the saxophone, as well), but it's certainly well regarded. Plus, I figure that building a system out of components made by the same company just makes sense. After all, you wouldn't put a Corvette engine in a Ram pickup outfitted with a Porsche suspension (although, now that I think about it, that would be pretty cool).

Anyway, the new mouthpiece assembly proved to be a revelation, once I broke in a couple of reeds. I'm starting to ever so slightly sound like I might be better than an average junior high player.

Along the way, I've realized that while I spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours playing the clarinet, I was never a student of the instrument...just a practitioner. That's neither good or bad, I think; it was just a reflection of the fact that for me, playing a clarinet was a hobby, not a passion.

That hasn't changed, but with more time on my hands, and reaching a point in my life where I'm perhaps a bit more sentimental about the past, I've delved into additional aspects of the instrument.

For example, I never really knew much of the background behind the clarinet that I've had since high school. It was made by a company called LeBlanc whose roots date back to 1750, although the company name came into being shortly after World War 1. The model is called "LL," unimaginatively referred to as "Double L" and it was considered to be an instrument suitable for professionals as well as students. The tri-cornered hat emblem shown in the photo above is unique to the LL. 

As a testament to Leblanc's bona fides, Pete Fountain played its clarinets; according to one source, he even played an LL, albeit one customized to meet his specifications, with gold plating and six rings (the standard model comes with five, and I had to look it up to see why one would need/want six. I'm still not sure, even after reading the explanation. But, then, I'm not worthy to pull on Pete Fountain's spit rag.).

Mine is stamped with the serial number 22682, which, according to this website (are you surprised there's a website dedicated to clarinet serial numbers?), means that it was manufactured in 1965. It is made of grenadilla wood, aka African blackwood, a significant step-up from the plastic beginner model I started with in junior high. My recollection is that my parents purchased it for me at some point during high school, at the suggestion of my band director who discerned that I might have the talent to justify a better instrument. Looking back, I suspect that the investment in the new instrument represented a significant financial sacrifice for them, but I was too clueless as a teenager to realize it, much less acknowledge it.

Over the past month or so, I've done more reading about clarinets than in the previous six decades of my life. I'm amazed -- but not surprised -- by how much I don't know about them.  And while there's a certain amount of pleasure to be derived in knowing what a plateau clarinet is, or in admiring a handmade mouthpiece made in Tuscany from Italian crystal, the fact that I'm re-learning how to make music is where something very close to joy comes from.

If you're a musician of any caliber whatsoever, on any kind of instrument, whether it's a harp, or guitar, or harmonica, or washboard, or your voice, or a Sound of Harmony Concert Grand piano made by Steinway & Sons...my advice to you, humbly given, is simple: play on.

For the past few weeks, we've listened to the conversations (and monologues) of crows, originating from somewhere to the southwest of our house. They don't sound close, but their calls can carry long distances. And every now and then we could hear something crow-like, almost like the pleading of a young bird. But I'm far from being an expert in the ways of crows so I could very well be mistaken about that.

Anyway, as Debbie (previously known as MLB, but I now have her permission to reveal her identity) and I were heading out on a run yesterday morning, I glanced over at the electrical transmission towers that are just outside our neighborhood and spotted what looked to be a nest near the top of one of them. I told her that we should go investigate when we have a chance.

We did just that around in the early afternoon, donning our snake boots in preparation for a hike through the tall vegetation and rocky terrain surrounding the towers. We drove to a cul-de-sac about a hundred yards from the towers, parked the truck, and began making our way across the landscape. I brought my camera (of course) with an 80-250 zoom lens, and as usual, found a lot of interesting things to photograph. Let's explore, shall we?

The beginning of the hike was a pretty one, with an impressive array of spring wildflowers covering the ground.

Photo - Wildflowers in a field

We could see the tower in question just over the treeline, and it was obvious that there was a large nest near the top of the tower.

Photo - Transmission tower at a distance

We crossed the wildflower-covered open area and walked through a brushier part of the hill, and through an opening in the trees we caught a glimpse of an impressive vista, including a sliver of Lake LBJ about two miles away, as the crow flies (sorry).

Photo - View of Lake LBJ and surrounding countryside

The nest seems to cling precariously to the crossbeams of the tower. Notice the cluster of wires installed on top of the insulators to keep birds from perching there; I have no idea why that's important, but they obviously have no effect on nest building.

Photo - Crows nest on electrical tower

Photo - Close-up of crows nest on electrical tower

There are actually a pair of identical towers, side-by-side, and a crow was keeping watch on the other tower. 

Photo - Crow on electrical tower

A second crow had been flying back and forth, and eventually it landed and appeared to consult with the first one. If its plumage looks to be in disarray in the photo below, that's because it was. More puzzling behavior...was it shaking its feathers to communicate something to the other bird as they touched beaks?

Photo - Two crows on electrical tower

We watched the birds for a few minutes, then decided to do a little more exploration. Here's Debbie posing in front of a granite boulder she tried to convince me to take home.

Photo - Debbie in her snake boots

These purple flowers were quite plentiful, and we'd never seen them elsewhere in the neighborhood. At first, we (and by "we" I mean "she," because I know nothing about flowers) thought they were wild irises, but a little googling identified them as giant spiderworts.

Photo - Giant spiderworts in bloom

Cacti is plentiful, especially amongst the rocky outcroppings, and some of them are beginning to bloom.

Photo - Cactus flower
Photo - Cactus flowers

The most interesting find of the day was when Debbie pointed out the "foam" she discovered at the base of a few plants. I had never noticed it, but once we started looking closer, it was fairly common.

It was another mystery, but one quickly solved when she googled it and pronounced it to be the work of the spittlebug. These are tiny insects whose nymphs suck the sap from plants and then pump bubbles into the liquid to produce the foam (some oldtimers refer to it as "frog spit"), which surrounds them as protection from predators and also keeps them from drying out. The term "spittle" is misleading, however, considering the foam activation emanates from the other end, to be delicate about the matter.

Photo - Foam or spittle produced by spittlebugs
Photo - Foam or spittle produced by spittlebugs

Spittlebugs are not actually harmful to the plants they reside on, although in large enough quantities they can cause them to droop a bit. They are unusual enough to warrant a rather long investigatory article from The Gray Lady itself...which would have been the last place I'd have thought to look for an exposé on spittlebugs.

As an aside, this is not the first time we've discovered strange secretions from the plant life in our neighborhood. Alert Gazette readers will no doubt recall this post about ice flowers.

We didn't know enough about the phenomenon to investigate further on our hike, but when we returned home we went looking for the foam in the vacant lot next door. It wasn't nearly as plentiful, but we did find a couple of occurrences, and I violated the personal space of one of the inhabitants to see what it looked like. You can't tell a lot from the following photo, but it does confirm that the foam has a tenant.

Photo - Spittlebug on the end of a stick

Spittlebugs weren't the only attractive critters we came across after returning home. Here's a pretty little damselfly. (Confused about the difference between a damselfly and a dragonfly? This will help.)

Photo - Damselfly

And, finally, this caterpillar was hiding in the undergrowth. The spikes on its back might remind one of the wiry clusters on top of the electrical towers we visited earlier...and I suspect they serve the same purpose: to dissuade birds from further investigation.

Photo - Caterpillar

It was a fun and even educational way to spend a quarantined afternoon. Our only disappointment (well, mine, anyway) was that we didn't encounter any snakes (as far as we know) so our protective boots are still untested. Maybe next time.

Who's Zoomin' Who?
April 11, 2020 10:15 AM | Posted in: ,

Apologies to the Queen of Soul for the post title, but the question is a valid one today, albeit for different reasons than Aretha anticipated. And the answer seems to be...pretty much everyone.

One of the few beneficiaries of the COVID lockdowns is the maker of the videoconferencing software, Zoom. I guess it's been around for a while, but I had never heard of it until the pandemic hit. But I've now participated in two Zoom meetings in three days, and I have to say that I'm fairly impressed.

On Wednesday evening, MLB and I joined about twenty others in a virtual Bible study using Zoom. Then, at noon yesterday I "met" via Zoom with several other members of our Sunday School class to discuss how that Bible study might be improved. (There are some logistical challenges to trying to have an online discussion with that many people. We came to the conclusion that you can't replicate an in-person gathering regardless of how good the software is. Compromises must be made.)

Zoom is a lot like Apple's FaceTime. As I told someone yesterday, Zoom is not quite as user-friendly but the learning curve is not steep. The big advantage of Zoom, in my experience, is that it seems to make better use of limited bandwidth than FaceTime. 

With our slow internet, we often experience freezes, dropped or degraded video or audio, and even dropped calls with FaceTime. I've encountered none of these problems with Zoom. Granted, I haven't used it that much, but the experience thus far has been exceptional.

During our Wednesday meeting, we noticed that the scene behind one of the couples switched from the interior of their home to a beautiful sunset over the lake. MLB asked if I thought they had moved out onto their deck and I responded that it couldn't be because their deck faces east. As it turns out, you can change the background of your image in a Zoom meeting, assuming you have the right software/hardware combination (I don't). That's a pretty cool feature, especially if you live in a really boring environment.

One other thing you should have if you want a different background is a green or blue screen...you know, like they use in the movies to create stuff that really isn't there (like a pleasing personality for Harrison Ford). While Hollywood's technology is sufficiently advanced to allow chromakeying on any color, green works best for people appearing on TV and video. The reason is pretty simple: people aren't green. (Sorry, Kermit.) Chromakeying on green lets the software remove that color, leaving the people in the foreground intact, so you can replace the background with the image of your choice. Just don't wear a green shirt or green eye shadow, or be, you know, Kermit.

If you want to try this, you could paint a wall of your house green...but a more elegant solution (i.e. one that is less likely to lead to a lawsuit and/or a messy divorce) is just to order a green screen from somebody like Amazon.com.

So, it got me to thinking (Ed. -- Uh oh.) If I could change the background for our Zoom meetings, what would I choose? Well, I came up with a few possible alternatives.

Me and my good buddies, the Three Stooges Me and my good LOTRs buddies Me and my good buddies, Tom and Wilson Me on another planet Me and my good buddies, Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote Me and my good Titanic buddies

The possibilities are limited only by one's availability of spare time, which nowadays seems to be approaching infinity.
Something in the half acre vacant lot next door to ours caught my eye a couple of days ago. lt turned out to be a really pretty and unusual mushroom...toadstool...ground-dwelling fungus. I'm not a mycologist and I have no skill whatsoever in identifying these organisms, but I do find them fascinating.

We've had a very mild and rainy spring, and the decaying leaves seem to provide an ideal breeding ground for the fungi. I took a few photos for your perusal, and converted the backgrounds to black and white to highlight the subjects.

Photo - Mushroom Photo - Mushroom Photo - Mushroom Photo - Mushroom Photo - Mushroom

The last one is my favorite, as I've never seen one like it before. If you can identify it, feel free to do so in the comments.

Sometimes your intended photographic subject takes second place to a surprise when you look closer at the photo...

Photo - Mushroom and tiny frog

These tiny frogs -- no bigger than my thumbnail -- have proliferated in our yard and the surrounding lots. I fully expect that they'll eventually attract certain types of predators (if they haven't already)...such as...

Photo - Shed snake skin

This remnant -- the result of a snake's ecdysis -- wasn't actually in the neighboring lot. We ran across it, literally, on a street just to the north of our neighborhood while out for a morning workout. There's no way of knowing the species of snake, but the most prevalent variety around here is a variation of the non-venomous rat snake.

Back to the neighborhood...an ongoing mystery is how a coil of barbed wire (or, as we say round here, "bob war") came to rest on the broken stub of an oak tree. The city of Horseshoe Bay was developed from ranch land, so I assume that this is a decades-old relic from that enterprise. In any case, I like seeing it there as a reminder of times when things weren't quite as civilized...and also of the importance of keeping one's tetanus vaccine current.

Photo - Coil of barbed wire on a tree

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't solicit your sympathy for our pollen plight. This time of year, I spend at least thirty minutes almost every day using the leaf blower to clean off our driveways, sidewalk, and patios. And, occasionally, when I don't go to that trouble, I still find it therapeutic to use a broom to clear a path (or landing strip) for our bicycle.

Photo - Pathway through the pollen from our garage to the street

I hope you're able to get out and do some urban/suburban exploration of your own during this time of enforced non-busyness. There are fascinating details in the world, both natural and manmade.

A Minor Diversion, Part 2
April 7, 2020 2:36 PM | Posted in: ,

A few years ago -- four, to be more precise -- when we lived in Midland, a dove built a ramshackle nest (to our eyes; for all I know, it was a masterpiece of dovish architecture) atop a shelf on a wrought iron baker's rack on our back porch.

At some point, Nature did its thing (cue Cole Porter) and the nest became the home of two pre-hatched dovelings, aka eggs, and a long-suffering mama dove.

Dove nest photographed at midnight without a flash; i.e. nothing to see hereBeing the voyeuristic naturalist wannabe that I am, I mounted a GoPro camera next to the nest and set it to take a photo every sixty seconds. I left it in place for a couple of days (and nights...which, as the picture at right attests, was less than, um, illuminating).

The result doesn't exactly make for riveting, Oscar-worthy cinema. (Although, neither do most Oscar-winning movies nowadays, IYKWIM, but that's another discussion for another day.) Even the mother bird looks bored most of the time, and a bit restless much of the time. I imagine it's hard to find a comfortable position atop two orbs relatively the size of basketballs, in human terms.

She left the nest very rarely and then only for a brief period. Occasionally, the dad (I'm guessing) makes an equally brief period, probably just to say "aren't you finished yet?" Despite the almost constant presence of the mom, I did manage to find a sequence of photos where the nest was vacated and the eggs were on full display. I pulled about 20 sequential photos out of the thousands that the GoPro generated, and made the following gif for your viewing pleasure. See if you can figure out what caused the mama dove to temporarily abandon the nest.

Animated GIF: Dove on nest with two eggs

Doves are notorious for building ridiculous nests in ridiculous locations. I've seen them on top of fences where there's no protection, and on the end of palm fronds where they spring up and down at the slightest breeze, and, obviously, on back porches swarming with human activity. It's a good thing doves are so prolific because I suspect only a very small percentage of eggs survive until they hatch.

But, bless their naive little hearts, they keep trying. Feel free to draw your own lesson from their example.
Update (4/2/2020): Add one more to the armadillo count below; another one became an involuntary guest early this morning. And, yes, succeeded in waking me up at 3:30 a.m. in the process.

People have been clamoring* for a trapping update from Casa Fire Ant, and I respond to nothing if not clamoring. Here's a snapshot to set the mood:

An engrossing pictogram showing numbers of trapped animals since the beginning of time, or 2017, whichever is later
Note that the T-rex count remains depressingly low

To be quite honest (vs. the not-quite honest we're best known for), we've stopped trying to trap anything but armadillos. We decided that we were basically serving as the raccoon equivalent of a Golden Corral and minor details such as illegality of transport and frequency of rabies in those raccoonish diners, plus the collateral issues of catching skunks, possums, and house cats led us to rethink our strategy. The raccoons continue to stroll past our domicile each night, but as far as we can tell, they're not doing any damage, so we'll peg our tally at just over half a hundred and focus on the truly annoying culprits, aka Dasypus novemcinctus, aka the state mammal of the United Nation of Texas, aka the nine-banded armadillo.

We've caught four of them over the past ten days, including two in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Pro tip: don't set your traps close to your bedroom windows unless you don't mind being awakened at 3:00 a.m. by armadillos banging around seeking to break their surly bonds. Seriously, it's a real thing.

Animation: Armadillo running from trap through a patch of wildflowersApart from the obvious benefit of ridding ourselves of lawn-destroying varmints, armadillo trapping this time of year provides excellent photo opportunities. The UARL (undisclosed armadillo releasing location) has some nice stands of bluebonnets interspersed with miscellaneous other wildflowers, and what could possibly make for a more iconic Texas photograph than the state mammal frolicking** amongst the state flower? So, accompanied by my adroit cameraperson, aka MLB, we carefully staged some wildlife release scenes.

If you watch carefully the gif above, you'll see that the armadillo gets a rather slow start out of the gate, but quickly picks up speed. He also shows off his hopping skills a couple of times. Armadillos are surprisingly quick and also surprisingly adept at jumping, which is one of their go-to defensive maneuvers when evading predators (and trappers).

They're also quite -- how can I put this delicately? -- stinky. The traps I use are wooden and "pre-scented," meaning that they've housed actual armadillos before being shipped to the buyer. The animals have terrible eyesight but an out-of-this-world sense of smell, and they willingly enter traps that smell like their brethren have gone before them. The odor in the traps will eventually dissipate in the rain and hot sun, but it only takes a couple of hours for an armadillo to "re-arm" the trap.

Photo - Armadillo in wildflowers
Photo - Armadillo in wildflowers

The photo immediately preceding shows one of the armadillos exiting the trap. I used to have to turn the trap vertically and shake it to make the critter depart (it's not that they like it in there, but they apparently don't like being told what to do), but I've learned that opening the end of the trap opposite from the way they're facing and simply touching their tails makes them immediately vacate the premises. I get it; I don't want anyone sneaking up behind me and touching my tail either.

Photo - Armadillo in the middle of the road

So, we bid adieu to our little scaly friend, both of us hoping never to meet again. And lest you worry, we make always make sure they're safely across the road (which is rarely traveled anyway) before leaving. At least he gets to smell the wildflowers; we get to smell him.

*I don't actually hear any clamoring, but silent clamoring is the best kind.

**It's more like running for your life, probably. I'm not at all sure that armadillos are prone to frolicking. But they definitely engage in shenanigans, if not downright hijinks.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2020 listed from newest to oldest.

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