Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Elementary, my dear Watson...

There are, I think, two keys to successfully observing wild creatures in their native habitats.  One is patience.  Many times I've taken my camera to a place with no visible activity and sat quietly.  Insects start bustling about within five minutes, then come the butterflies, and next the birds and squirrels.  Another important key, though, is being able to spot clues that creatures leave behind.

I saw this dessicated cricket caught up in the fern fronds on our front porch.

Instantly, my mind was racing.  What eats crickets?  Well, birds, snakes, reptiles, spiders, frogs, and fish.  But since this was on the front porch, it would have to be a spider...or a mantis.

Sure enough, a praying mantis was lurking nearby.  It seemed smaller and more delicate than the big mantises I'm used to in Indiana, with a stubbier abdomen and beautiful lacy wings.

Of course, it had the characteristic of all mantises, who are efficient killers:  those long, serrated forelegs.

They never stop watching you.  Insects are so unbelievably aware of our presence, all the time.

Here's another example.  We've had many fine sunny days lately, and I've been able to spend more time outside.  Last week, I saw some droppings on a canna leaf.

The size told me it was too big for an insect, and it wasn't runny enough for a bird (TMI?).  I suspected it might be a lizard, and I found him before too long, hiding on the same plant.

I haven't seen many anoles this summer.  I wonder if they're more prevalent in the fall here?

Despite the black aphids, those chives I'd feared lost earlier this month bloomed nicely.

They drew all sorts of attention.  Bees...


And even butterflies, although they mainly stayed with the butterfly bushes and lantana.  Black tiger swallowtails and eastern tiger swallowtails are the most common.

The air is filled with little red fluttering things, but they aren't ladybugs like I initially thought.  They're related to leaf hoppers and look very similar, but they're actually (two-lined) spittle bugs.

They can be disastrous to lawns, feeding on the turf grasses that are common here in the South.  We haven't had any trouble, but we'll have to keep a close watch!

Speaking of lined, a huge striped fly landed on one of our windows recently.  He had what I call "Halloween legs" and must've been a full two inches long.

I was never able to figure out what he was!  If anyone knows...

Anyway, I encourage you to grab your magnifying glass and put on your deerstalker (that's the type of hat that Sherlock Holmes wore!), and see what you can find in your own yard with a little deductive reasoning and patience.

Have a great week!

1 comment:

  1. Update: the "Halloween fly" is a robber fly, and the dessicated cricket is a mantis molt! Now that I look at the picture it's totally obvious - you can even see the little serrated forelegs. Thank you so much, Mike!