Local Wildlife

There is an impressive array of wildlife that I see on a regular basis here.  Unfortunately, I only have imagery of a few of them because I usually see them whilst busy doing activities that aren’t operating a camera.

A family of killdeer likes to hang around in our vegetable field.  This surprised me, but apparently they are somewhat common in agricultural settings.  I personally haven’t seen it, but they have done the “broken wing” trick when we unwittingly walk near their nest.

There is a flock of turkeys that I see sometimes in the evenings.  The farm is surrounded by a decently large woods, and I’m not sure why but the turkeys sometimes come out onto our driveway.

Parasitic wasps are also common around here — they like to lay their eggs on the caterpillars that eat our crops.  Because of this, they are actually quite welcome here.  Some of them dig holes!  I watched one flinging sand out of a burrow it was making.

Speaking of caterpillars, there are many black swallowtail caterpillars on our herbs.  They especially like the dill.  If you disturb them, they will shoot out orange “horns” from their head that smell very bad.  It’s startling if you aren’t expecting it.  (Image from lemonbayconservancy.org):

Besides the harlequin bug, there are many other hemipterans around here.  The universal stinkbug, of course, but also several types of assassin bug (don’t touch) and a new to me insect called the stilt bug that’s a pest to our tomatoes.

Spiders are everywhere.  I have heard that a healthy and diverse field/pasture will have at least one spider in every square foot of land.  I’m not sure if that’s true or not.  There’s certainly a lot of spiders around here though.  Some are very large and make great silk tunnels to hide in, some are colorful and make big webs.  Some of them hide under lettuces and scare you when you realize you have a black widow sitting on the palm of your hand.

I’ve seen a few blue-tailed skinks.  Always fun to see a lizard.

I also found a box turtle today.  It had much more yellow on it than the ones I’m used to seeing — instead of being brown/black with yellow markings, it was orangey-yellow with black markings!  Bright yellow eyes.  Very pretty.  Unfortunately I was in the middle of something and couldn’t go get a camera.

No snakes yet!  Maybe the country folk around here have driven them all away.

Finally, some of my own pictures! I found this Bess beetle in the woods near my cabin. Bess beetles live in rotting logs and have a relationship with microbes in rotting logs (side note — I want to know why nobody seems to be able to digest anything for themselves.  Everyone depends on microbes to do it for them! Lazy!).  It has a small horn on the center of its head that you can see if you look closely.  This one also has a small orange mite next to the horn — see if you can spot it!

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It can also make squeaky sounds! Of course it doesn’t have vocal cords — it rubs two ridged parts of its exoskeleton together to make the sound (much like crickets and their chirp). Here is a video of it (turn up the volume to hear it):

While exploring a nearby river with another farmhand, he found a horrible aquatic monster.  We caught it and I looked it up — it was a dobsonfly larva, also known as a hellgrammite.  They are (obviously) predators and will eat other aquatic insect larvae or even small fish.  I put it in a tank with a crayfish, some aquatic snails, and a whirligig, hoping that at least one of them would eat another, but I guess they weren’t hungry.

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Okra the dog likes to chase after hawks and vultures that soar above the farm.  There is a wren that lives in a bundle of garlic hanging from our porch rafters.  It likes to scare the pants off of us when we stumble, bleary-eyed, out of bed in the mornings.  There’s a heron that hangs out in the river near here, and I found its footprints in the streambed the other day.  I’ve also seen two adult monarch butterflies, many swallowtails, and gobs of painted lady-type butterflies.  I was never much good at telling all the speckly orange butterflies apart, there are too many.

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