Recently in Wildlife - Other Category

Happy Friday, folks! We've got a lot of ground to cover today so try to keep up. (Just kidding. If you're here for the pictures, there's plenty; if you're a former Playboy reader and have just stopped by for the articles, there're a few things for you, as well, but none of it requires your rapt attention.)

First, please join me in congratulating the 80th guest at the Fire Ant Armadillo Lodge:

Photo - armadillo being released from trap
He's a little camera shy.

Armadillo Ochenta -- as he prefers to be called -- won a fabulous prize of an extended vacation in an undisclosed location somewhere between Austin and San Angelo. Enjoy, #80, and feel free not to visit again!

We've recently had a number of interesting visitors besides #80. Yesterday afternoon Debbie glanced toward the back patio and exclaimed "what's that?!" I followed her pointing finger and saw that she wasn't looking outside at all, but rather at the track of our sliding glass door. This little fellow was attempting, and failing, to look inconspicuous.

I grabbed him, carefully trying not to break his tail, and he responded to my gentle grasp with a gaping maw that informed me that he was ready and able to inflict significant mayhem on anyone and anything within snapping distance. He, too, was released on his own recognizance to one of our flowerbeds.

Photo - green anole in my hand
Anole in hand is the same as in a bush, only more comical.

And, no...it's not a snake. It's a green anole. So cool your jets.

Not all our visitors are as harmless or comical. I watched this one stroll around the grounds until he felt at home.*

Animation of redheaded centipede
I count only twenty-one pairs of legs. So, more arthropodic braggadocio.

This is a Giant Redheaded centipede, aka a Texas Redheaded centipede (not to be confused with the Texas Red Headed Stranger). This one was about six or seven inches long (I tried unsuccessfully to get it to stand still for an exact measurement; it had a bad case of jimmy legs). 

Centipedes are horrifying to look at and, yes, they are slightly venomous. But they do fill an ecological niche by eating other insects and even snakes. That's all well and good as long as they stay outside. Unfortunately, they don't always respect our boundaries.

Let's shift gears to something a little more cuddly. Alert Gazette readers will recall that we are regularly visited by tree frogs. In fact, almost every morning we find two of them hidden beneath the cushions of the chaise loungers on the back deck, and they spend the day there. And every evening, they leave to do whatever nocturnal amphibians do when the sun goes down.

Occasionally, though, we'll find them in different spots -- invariably cool and shady spots -- during the day. Here's one that was resting in the foliage of a potted bell pepper plant on the deck.

Photo - tree frog amongst pepper plant leaves
Move along. I'm not the droid you're looking for.

But enough of the Animalia kingdom; let's talk fungi.

I was roaming around the adjacent vacant lot, wearing snake boots and carrying a weedeater, much to the bafflement of the golfers across the fence, and came upon this scene:

Photo - plants growing on top of fungus growing on a dead tree trunk
A pyramid scheme of life

I realize this isn't all that interesting at first glance...and possibly not at second or third glance. But work with me here. There's a big, dead, partially rotted tree stump lodged in the ground. And on that stump is a tree fungus (bottom center in the photo), somehow finding nourishment in that woody corpse. But -- and here's what I found rather fascinating -- in the center of that fungus there are green leafy plants taking root. I don't know what kind of plants they are, but wouldn't it be cool if they're baby trees? Talk about the circle of life.

Well, I can see you don't share my enthusiasm for symbiotic relationships among flora living and dead. That's fine. But what about a mushroom that looks like a flower? Is that more to your liking?

Of course, anything worth posting is worth Photoshopping, and while this mushroom has an interesting shape, I feel it's a bit lacking in the coloring department. So, I've "helped" it along. Drag that vertical yellow bar to the left to see what I mean.

Photo - mushroom that looks like a flower 'Photo - Photoshopped mushroom that looks like a flower
Drag that yellow line. You know you want to.

Up next: some raccoon photos, and perhaps a beaver video. Stay tuned!

*Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Feel free to hum the song from which this lyrical phrase comes.
I was on our front walkway this morning and noticed what I thought was a really skinny earthworm inching its way across the pavers. Upon closer inspection, I decided it wasn't an earthworm but I had no clue as to what it was. Its distinguishing feature was a flat, paddle-like head with what appeared to be eyes. I know we have worm snakes in this area, although I've never seen one. This didn't look like a snake, but, again, my experience with them is non-existent.

I decided to gently nudge its tail to see its reaction...and to my surprise, it stuck to my finger. I was so shocked that I flung it across the yard where it disappeared in the grass, thereby ensuring I would not be able to identify it.

However, as I continued to inspect the walkway I found several others. I took some photos, then googled "long slender worms with flat heads" and was able to quickly identify the creature as a land planarian, most likely a Bipalium kewense -- and also referred to as a hammerhead flatworm -- which, according to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension website, is the most frequently found flatworm species in Texas.

They're not pretty critters.

Photo - Land Planarian

They also don't behave in a civilized manner, at least from my perspective, as they prey on earthworms, and not in a delicate fashion: they essentially grab the worm via the sticky mucus that coats their body and begin to digest the living worm. In fairness, they also prey on slugs, so they have at least one redeeming quality. 

Land planarians are not native to the US, having arrived here in some fashion from Southeast Asia many years ago.

Here's a better look at the head, and some interesting (also gross) facts about its anatomy via this website:
The head is usually shaped like a half-moon or arrowhead. There may even be eyespots present but the land planarian does not have actual eyes. Its mouth is located mid-way down the body (on its lower or ventral side) and its mouth also serves as its anus.

Photo - Land Planarian

We don't have a slug problem around here, and we do have a lot of beneficial earthworms, so destruction of the flatworms is a net benefit. However, they are apparently hard to kill. You can chop them up, but the pieces will each regenerate into a new worm. (Flatworms in general are like that, you know.) The recommended method of sending them across the Worm Rainbow Bridge is to spray them with orange oil; furniture polish will suffice.

We did find one source that recommended dropping them into hot water to instantly kill them. I tried that approach, and the flatworm contracted to a fraction of its original size. The photo below is a closeup on the head of the dead flatworm, which I think is lying on its back. I'm guessing that the white splotch further down is that dual-purpose orifice mentioned above.

Photo - Land Planarian

Neither Debbie nor I have ever seen one of these creatures before -- and we're both quite interested in and observant of our natural surroundings -- and so we wondered why they were now appearing in semi-abundance. The recent heavy rainfall might have brought them out of hiding, but more likely they emerged from something we did ourselves.

Yesterday, we (and by "we" I mean Debbie) put down 400 pounds of "Texas Native Enriched Top Soil" in our courtyard which is mere feet away from where the flatworms appeared. We had purchased the topsoil earlier in the day from Home Depot. This is a suspicious "coincidence." The company that manufacturers (can you manufacture dirt?) is based in Cedar Park, TX, about an hour away, but there's no indication on the bag where the soil originates from. Anyway, be advised of the possibility that you might be getting more than just top soil. One of the previously linked websites suggests heat sterilizing any soil brought in from outside, but that is not exactly an elegant solution.

We disposed of four or five more flatworms, and no more appeared so we hope we nipped the invasion in the bud. And we now know more about flatworms than we ever hoped to.

Photo - Empty plastic bag which contained the topsoil
This is a bag that the topsoil was packaged in.

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.

Snail
November 22, 2014 3:48 PM | Posted in: ,

We enjoyed on-and-off rain showers all day, and one consequence besides making the trees happy was the appearance of this guy. Or girl. Who knows?

Anyway, it was on our back porch and seemed to be begging me to take its picture. So I did. Snails can be very persuasive.

Snail
Snail
Snail

In case you're wondering, the snail didn't climb onto that bougainvillea bloom of its own accord. Yes, that's right; I blatantly manipulated nature for my own sordid photographic purposes. Life is cruel like that.

On the other hand, no snails were harmed (if you don't count hurt pride) in the making of these photos.

Comments? Criticism? Glowing praise? Email me or hit Facebook.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Wildlife - Other category.

Wildlife - Mammals is the previous category.

Wildlife - Snakes is the next category.

Archives Index