Orb spiders

Written by Dr. Dolittle on August 31, 2009 – 12:00 pm -

orb spider

I have a rabid curiosity about pretty much everything in nature. Those who are around me much have gotten used to my stopping and watching nature at work, sometimes in the form of a spider molting, baby birds squawking for lunch or maybe a beautiful moth. Usually I don’t know whether to look up or look down because there’s always something going on worth watching.
We have these argiope bruennichi orb spiders all around our house. We encourage their presence because of the over abundance of grass hoppers every year. Grasshoppers are high on the spider’s lunch list. Right now we can count 5 ladies within 25 feet of our back door. One little lady placed her web on the frame holding the cucumber vines. Good choice. She has eaten regularly and far out grown any of her contemporaries. There is only one problem; she is too close to the hummingbird feeders. One day my husband found a struggling hummer caught in Miss Spider’s web. The poor bird had torn the web but to no avail, she was stuck. My husband freed the bird, cleaned off the webbing and released it, seemingly none the worse for wear. Within hours the web was repaired and momma spider was back in business catching grasshoppers.
To watch these spiders in action is amazing. Their speed at wrapping prey is awesome, even when the prey is much larger than the spider. Our cucumber sitter has grown to over 3” in length and has set out two eggs pouches to insure the next generation in the spring. We’ll be waiting.

UPDATE: My most reliable source for identifying insects has pointed out my insect identification misinformation. The spider is actually an Argiope aurantia. Thanks!

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Ground Beetle

Written by Dr. Dolittle on August 18, 2009 – 6:51 pm -

ground beetle

Just about everything with fur, feathers or fins will immediately draw my attention. Now add things with 6 or 8 (or more) legs and we about have it covered. My friends and family have quit rolling their eyes whenever I stop and stare at something and then ask them to “Come look!” I don’t always have my camera with me and I’ve missed some strange critters, but not all of them have gotten away. This ground beetle was just hanging out under the carport. I would assume he is waiting for lunch to stroll by. I really can’t tell the boys from the girls so my assumption of gender may be wrong, but this is still one big bug.

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5 Day old baby rabbits

Written by Dr. Dolittle on August 10, 2009 – 3:22 am -

5 day old rabbits

Just fed 5 day old rabbits

Momma rabbits normally feed their young only twice a day. The young sleep in a nest made of hay and momma’s fur. When she hops into the nesting box to nurse, the mad scramble is on. The baby bunnies, born naked and with their eyes closed, wiggle until they come in contact with momma. At that time they flip on to their back, wiggling until they find a spigot. Since it’s going to be a long time until they eat again, they eat until they can hold no more. Once the babies turn loose, momma hops out and babies go back to their nest to sleep it off. Sometimes that takes a while due to over full bellies.

Baby rabbits are weaned at 3-4 weeks old. As long as they are eating and drinking by themselves they have no need for momma, and can actually be an awful bother to her. Just imagine spending your day having anywhere from 5-10 kids bugging you for a drink all the time. Weaning is a kindness to momma.

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Goofy Goose

Written by Dr. Dolittle on August 5, 2009 – 5:02 pm -

Mouthy Goose

Mouthy Goose

Farmers have been using geese as watchdogs for a long, long time. Either a goose is totally ignorant of his duties and lets everyone close, or he’s so grouchy no one can enter his domain without being charged and threatened with a nasty pinch. Then there are a few who fall through the cracks and don’t make the grade in either category, such as this fellow. He waddles along behind us looking for attention, honking loudly to guarantee we know he’s there. When we reach for him, he ducks and honks as if we’re invading his space, but then settles into a blissful stance once the petting actually starts. He soaks up all the attention he can get until we turn to walk away, then Mushy-goose morphs into Monster-goose. Craning his neck he charges, catching pant leg, skirt bottom or skin, makes no difference to him. Evidently goose gratitude is only feather deep.

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