Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pregnant Squirrels, Dragonflies and Snakes

One of the younger female squirrels is pregnant. She is good-sized, but I can tell she is young. She is also very far along. Either that, or she is expecting four babies instead of two. The older female who lives in the back yard usually has twins a couple times a year. This female is very friendly. Her belly is a creamy velvet. Sometimes when she's eating seeds, she'll stop, sprawl, and let her belly rest on the cool glass of the patio table. I'm very careful to clean the food and water dishes for the creatures and I use only filtered or spring water in their water dishes, though they still drink from the ponds. Nevertheless, she eats well, and often, seems very strong, and I think she will have healthy babies.

I am excited for her. Her belly appears to have dropped over the past two days. I'm not sure if it works the same way with squirrels as it does with humans, but this could be an indicator that she is getting close to her delivery time. They generally mate in May/June and carry the babies 44 days, so it does seem right that she would be close to her due date. She is beautiful. She has that glow that pregnant creatures tend to have.

I spent the morning photographing a large, red dragonfly with her reproductive ritual, as well. She was dropping eggs into the pond. She would stop when the winds picked up and cling to the arm of the chair or a nearby branch. I took many pictures. At one point, she flew off to chase away another dragonfly, then flew right back to where I was taking pictures and when I leaned closer to get a better picture of her, she leaned closer to me!

I woke up this morning and glanced out the window to see a snake in the pond. I grabbed my camera and ran outside and it swam up under a log I set up for shade for the creatures. The snake let me take quite a few pictures. It stuck its tongue out at me a couple of times. They use their tongues as sensors, almost like a nose, to see if what they're facing is a threat, food, or a female snake. Obviously, I wasn't any of these things, so the snake just sat for awhile while I took pictures. It was a checkered garter. It may be Checkers, the garter snake that lived in the rosemaries on the side of the house last year. He's quite a bit bigger, but that would make sense.

I have been following the life and adventures of a golden silk orb weaver I named Alice, videotaping as she built her web and captured her prey and posting her picture on Facebook. I woke up this morning and noticed she had disappeared and her beautiful, three part web was completely destroyed. My husband thinks her web was destroyed by the fierce rainstorms we had last night, but if this was the case, she would have rebuilt. I think she was eaten by a bird, or mud dauber. While I was searching for her, I noticed a mud dauber fly in behind what remained of her web and crawl beneath the ivy. Mud daubers will kill very large spiders, carry them to their houses and stuff the spiders inside. Miss Alice was a very large spider, though. I do hope she's okay.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Rainy Day

There's a blanket of rain falling from the sky and squirrels at all feeding stations, their tails flipped over their heads like fuzzy umbrellas. They seem to eat twice as much food when it's raining outside, and it's been pouring! We're getting the tail winds and rain from Hurricane Alex, which is fine with me--these 105 degree days have turned the land a crispy brown and all it takes is one good rain to turn our world green again.

I took the dogs our earlier during a break in the rain. Buddy ran to the trees at the base of the driveway's slope and suddenly, a cottontail darted out a few feet then stopped. Buddy started toward the bunny, but stopped when I called his name. He turned around and continued sniffing the ground. The rabbit took a step toward Buddy and that was when I knew something was beneath the tree. I could also see that the rabbit had something small and dark in her mouth.

I ran down to Buddy and moved him away from the tree. I could see a nest beneath the tree. I turned around and the rabbit was still behind us with the dark object in her mouth. Buddy jerked toward her, then stopped and looked up at me. I shook my head and led him back to the house. I am certain there are babies in the nest and think it's possible that the mother had a baby in her mouth, as well.

One of my girlfriends was at the playground with her children when they discovered a snake. They tried to call the police and humane society and were confused that no one would come to remove the snake. They live in Arizona. I cannot imagine anyone responding to a snake call here in Texas, either. I think when you live in areas such as this you are expected to learn about the animals and how to avoid them and/or live with them. My friend's husband eventually realized it was a bull snake, walked over to the snake, picked it up and tossed it over the fence. Bull snakes

The incident did make me think about the way we approach wildlife, though. We teach our children about stranger danger, doesn't it seem logical to teach them how to respond to wildlife encounters? Many of the women who responded to my friend's post seemed to think it would be appropriate to grab the children and run, but if the child or parents is too close to the snake that would be a sure way to startle the snake into striking.

Back to the rain, our hummingbirds don't seem to be bothered by the downpour. We're already seeing three and four hummers at each of the feeders either eating or chasing each other about. I have another friend who was trying to take a picture of the hummingbirds outside his door and noticed two birds coming toward him, so he flipped on the video recorder and captured the two birds chasing each other in circles in a territorial dance. It's a fantastic video that I've watched more than once. It seems as though I never tire of watching God's creatures at play.