Cool critter encounters

Spent the day in the garden yesterday – 'twas quite lovely – and really enjoyed watching the various winged things who hang out there. I was planting some impatiens in the shady bed under the crape myrtle, which was pissing off the mama robin who’s nesting there – she had brought back something yummy for the kids, and couldn’t give it to them while I was there, lest I figure out exactly where her nest is. (Her secret continues to be safe – I went to the back yard for a few minutes to give her a chance to pop in at home for a moment, so I still haven’t spotted the actual nest.)

Then I was sitting out back reading and just soaking up the gorgeousness of the day, watching three titmouses (titmice? titmouses?) bopping around, in and out of the birdbath, up on the side of the neighbor’s house, in and around the fence. And while I was sitting there a woodpecker was feeding on the cones at the end of the branch of the white pine, maybe 8-10’ above my head – I watched her for more than ten minutes, very cool.

But the highpoint of the day was seeing a hummingbird moth do a transit across my back bed. Not sure exactly what kind it was – got as far as “WTF! Hey! That’s a …” before it was gone. Those are big honking insects.

Reminds me, I need to reload the Hummer feeder. :slight_smile:

Heh. I’m just waiting for the trumpet vine to start blooming – that’s some good backyard birding!

Our critters are in full bloom too.

I have a mourning dove Mommy who’s feeding a suprisingly big juvenile just outside my window. Looks like the typical 19 year old slacker who just doesn’t wanna move out. The youngun fluffs up its wings like it can’t fly & Mom opens wide so the kid can stick its beak in there & get a free meal of fresh mom-vomit. Disgusting but cute at the same time. Then the kid flies off for awhile.

The geese have hatched a load of goslings, who grow so fast you only have a couple weeks before they’re indistinguishable from the adults.

And we saw young racoons yesterday. They climb amazingly well.

Came across a bear on my walk on Friday afternoon.


Back in '99, MindWife and I had stopped by Tim Horton’s in Mississauga for some Timbits (donut holes) and then started to walk home. We stopped on a set of stairs that led up to a bridge that crossed Burnhamthorpe Rd. to munch on our Timbits. We were only half a dozen steps up or so, and we were enjoying our snack when a little red fox stopped by sniffing about for food. He was a gorgeous thing, all red fur with white fringes and black legs and paws. So we tossed him a few Timbits, which he snapped up happily. Just a few, mind you. When we were done, he regarded us with a seeming note of thanks and trotted off to parts unknown. Being that this is a very urban setting, it was cool getting that close to bits of nature you don’t normally encounter in such a place.

I have a big “kiddie” pool in the back yard. It’s right under the bird feeder. If I lie on my float in the pool, the birds and squirrels eventually decide that I’m no threat and come to the feeder while I’m floating there, just feet away from them. I love it. But yesterday’s squirrel was a bit ballsy. It actually acted like it was going to jump down onto my float with me! I pushed off the side of the pool and got some distance between us.

That’s nothing. I got in a bluffing and shouting contest with a black bear Tuesday evening. I guess he smelled the soup I had for dinner; after a few bluff charges, I told him, “I’m a big pink hairless bear and I’m going to eat you for breakfest”, only it came out like “IAARRGGGPPPPBBBBEEEARRRRRRGGGGG!!!” and he turned tail and ran back into the woods like a fearful child. Poor guy. I also saw one climbing up a very steep mountainside on Thursday, but I’m not even sure he saw me. The weirdest, though, was the deer that was laying down in shade about twelve feet off the trail that refused to get up and move just because I walked by. I guess he knew he was in a National Park and I couldn’t shoot him, but that was one lazy deer.


Hey…watch it! Polite company would refer to them as bosom-mice.

This little bastid was in the process of tossing my garbage all over my deck.

Disturbing but cool (in my opinion, since I’m still alive) critter encounter at the park yesterday morning. While walking one of the hiking trails, I noticed what was apparently a small animal writhing on the ground ahead. I ran over to it, thinking that it might be an injured squirrel or baby raccoon or something of the sort. Only when I was practically on top of it was I able to clearly interpret what I was seeing. What I had mistaken for a single animal moving around was, in fact, a grapefruit-sized, pulsating ball of live wasps. Moreover, I now percieved that the numerous insects flying around me, which I had heedlessly dashed through on my way to the “injured animal,” were also wasps.

“Ah, well,” I observed clinically, “I am about to die.” At this point the ball of wasps was rolling around within inches of my Chuck Taylors, and I was able to discern that one particular wasp appeared slightly different from all the others-- black rather than transparent wings. It seemed to be trying to fight its way out of the swarm, but as soon as it got clear, all the others pounced on it again and dragged it back in. Was this the female wasp? Or just an interloper who made the mistake of crossing the tracks? I have no idea. But eventually it managed to get clear of the rest and took off. The others continued to flail around for a moment; and then there was this instant when they all sort of looked at each other and realized that the source of their agitation had already flown the coop, whereupon they dispersed within the space of a few seconds, and I resumed the circulation of blood within my own body.

Once I got home I tried to identify the species in a book of Florida insects, but was unable. Neither was I able to locate any mention of that peculiar mobile swarming behavior, which I have never seen before. It made me think of cartoon bees when someone disturbs their hive, and they all fly out in a single solid enraged mass. However, I did read that some species of wasps don’t actually have a stinger, but merely a stinger-like appendage with which they “pretend to sting.” I can’t even begin to imagine what the survival advantage is for wasp mimes.

There is a muskrat family living in the “stream”/ drainage ditch behind my apartment building. I see “Mom” (I assume) fairly often, and have seen 3 balls of fluff that I assume were baby muskrats once, and one larger not so “ball of fluff” young one more recently.

Earlier this summer, right about Mother’s day, I saw Momma Duck and her 14 ball of fluff ducklings in the same stream–If I’d had to guess, I’d have said they were only a day or two old. I saw them again a couple of days later, but they were snuggled too close together for me to be able to count the fluffballs. I haven’t seen those babies since.

I also happen to live very close to a smallish lake-- so I have had my opportunities to see goslings grow into geese whose only difference between child and parent is size. Mom and Dad are still significantly larger. And the little ones are sometimes a little ragged looking–like not quite all their feathers have grown in.

Saw a rather large turtle, either laying eggs or taking a dump beside the nature trail last weekend.
Dunno if that counts…

Went out early this morning to feed the birds and water my plants and came face to nose with a huge white coyote. We looked at each other for about 3 seconds and he trotted off.

Almost made up for the scorpion I found in the bathroom last night.

I have seen hot lizard lovin’ take place on my back porch. Lizards are rather shameless and will do it wherever apparently. A few weeks later I started seeing two teeney little lizards runnin’ around. AWWWW… the issue from what I had witnessed.

There’s a sparrow’s nest under one of the eaves at my church. There are four babies. I imagine within a couple weeks they’ll all be gone though cause they look like almost full grown sparrows now.

I love layin’ on a float in my pool and watchin’ the dragonflies buzz around. They’re such cool insects! Plus they eat mosquitoes.

Explanation of that mass of wasps.

There is a predator of honeybees that raids hives and is quite cabable of killing thousands of the defenders, and when it has done this, it goes into the hive and feasts on the larvae.

The failure of the defence is that the defending bees attack in largley singleton strike which the predator can easily handle.

There is a type of Bee that has developed a natural defence against this sort of attack, and the chances are that this is what the poster saw.

It turns out that the predators are far fewer in number, and they have one weakness compared to the normal honey bee.

The honey bee can survive and tolerate a higher body temperature than the predator wasp/hornet/ or whatever its called.

When the hive is attacked, a defending bee of this species will mark the attacker with a pheromone which will attract a large mass of other defenders, this also happens to most attackers to a nest for most such creatures which is why you tend to get swarmed and followed.

The defenders, instead of attacking the predator insect, simply crowd it out, making a ball of insects with the predator in the middle.

Th einternal temperature of the ball rises, and this kills off the predator, and upon its death the release of chemicals from the dead predator effectively passes a message to the defenders that they can move away.

The predator will fight and struggle, it will kill a few defenders but it always dies.

I can’t remeber the specific names of the species involved, either in predation or successful defence.

Having looked around it seems that the predator I am thinking of is some kind of Hornet which is 3 times the size of the bees and many times its weight, and the bees that can defend against them are some form of Japanese bee.

Ah here I found something fascinating

I wonder if perhaps that poster saw some kind of bee defence srategy, or perhaps it was just a queen with part of her swarm.

A couple of months ago, I thought I had a baby preying mantis in my kitchen.

It was black, about an inch long, with transparent lacey wings; but looked for all the world like a baby PreyMan.

I finally looked it up in my insect book (National Audobon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, Nineteenth Printing, September 2000), and found that it was instead an adult mantidfly. or “false mantid.”

(S)He, like true mantids, made very good eye contact with me during its stay, and eventually started striking at me if I got close. I thought it was trying to scare me off, but by the next day it was dead.

So maybe it was just hungry and desperate. I feel bad that I didn’t try to feed it. I had Vienna Sausages and everything…

We have an albino squirrel in our neighborhood. I have no idea how longs squirrels should live, but this guy has been around for at least 5 years.

This morning I looked out my kitchen window to see him dining on my cherry tomatos. He’s too cute to get annoyed.

I spent most of last week at the cabin. In the woodpile resides a family of chipmunks. Did you know they love Cocoa Puffs? and Oreos? By Thursday morning they would just sit like, well, bumps on the logs, while I would put chips and fruit out for them.

Went for an 8-mile hike today with friends out in a rather wild area. Beautiful day, nice breeze and high of only 97F. Saw an owl fly by and heard another hooting (odd for daytime), then heard and finally saw a golden eagle circling above. Later a coyote trotted right across the trail ahead of us, and on way back saw a pretty big herd of javalina. Goofy looking animals (tufted peccary) and later three more of them running across the dry wash. Several quail and other assorted birds. All of which made for a pleasant day in the outdoors.

driving home late one night, I was moving along a quiet country road, forest on both sides. A snowy owl came out of the forest in front of me and flew directly in front of the car, just at the periphery of my hi-beams, for about 100 meters.

Very surreal, very cool.