Sunday, June 08, 2008

Animals in and around our home

In the past week or 2 we have come across some amazing animals right around our home. I'll start with the beneficial ones. First we got a bucket full of gambozia fish from some friends who told us they can live in our rain barrels and eat mosquito larvae. So we now have pet fish living in 3 of the barrels. I think they are very happy since I haven't seen any mosquitos around the barrels since we put them in there.
Arianna had fun trying to catch them with her hand before we put them in the rain barrel.

Then Daniel spotted what he thought was a small snake next to the pomegranate bush. He and Ellen scurried around and caught it with a net and bucket. When we did a little research we learned that it was actually a legless lizard called a "slender glass lizard." It is great to have around the yard as it eats insects and even small rodents. Ellen was so excited to get to pick it up. She pet it first then did not hesitate to hold it. We asked her to carry it back to where we found it. She loved it. We had a great lesson on the difference between snakes and lizards and learned lots of great facts about them.

Here's Arianna's snake. She's never been to excited about holding creatures like this so she went and made one so that she could hold her own snake.
I guess it was actually a few days before that Ellen spotted this next creature in the bottom of our yard. We were all standing down there near our compost when Ellen said, " Snake, does anyone else see that snake." We later looked him up and identified him as a yellow rat snake. They are not venimous and are also great to have around the yard since they will eat the small rodents and other guys who may be wanted to taste some of our garden. We were unable to catch him but we did get a nice long look at him. He curled up (as seen in the picture) and froze when we got near him. As you can see our cat Max had walked right past him and decided to lay down right in front of the snake. Not sure why he did that but we were all kind of nervous while Max relaxed next to the snake's mouth. The snake never tried to bite or anything. He eventually moved deeper into the sticks and we couldn't get him.A few days later we found this little wren fluttering around our dining room. Once again Daniel and Ellen were excited about trying to catch him to set him free. Arianna and I were staying away as we were both a little freaked out as he might fly in our face. We trapped him in the girls room and they eventually got him out. Daniel used this cloth to hold him and let us get a closer look. Very sweet.

So now the bad bug news. We've been hoping to not have to deal with these pests but, a few days ago we got a close look at some of our yellowing zucchini plants and realized they had some squash vine borers in them. Oh how sad! Daniel dug out tons of these little rascals in all of the plants. He pulled about 8 plants completely out and we are leaving 3 just to see if they can live after the surgery done to their vines.


William Kruidenier said...

Cool pix -- amazing what lives in our yards. I dug up snake eggs (I think they were -- never seen them before) when I was burying vegetable scraps this morning.

Re: mosquitoes. If you don't already have bats in the neighborhood (you'll have seen them) you could put up a "bat house" on the side of the house or a tree and hope to attract some. The houses I've seen are very simple -- would be easy for Daniel to make (look online). Bats would be a beneficial addition to your menagerie.

Lesley said...

Very cool zoology lesson for the girls - fish, herps, birds, invertebrates, and making some connections with talk of predation!

I have never heard of the gambozia fish, but think we should get some too! I would be careful not to release them in a native pond or stream in case they are non-native and invasive. I will try to do some research to find out.

That looks to be a young Carolina Wren in your house. The white supercillium (line above the eye) is the clue. I know it is young because it has 'juvenile lips' - a yellow color in the corners of its mouth and the corners are also a bit enlarged. Sorry for the unsolicited bio talk...

Love you guys.

Anna Morrison said...

well, i have no super cool and helpful info to give you ( like william and lesley, but i love fact that you slow down enough to notice these beauties.

admiring you still . . .

jendanellenarianna said...

William, Yes we have thought about putting bat houses up. I guess you could say it's on our list of things "to do." We have spent a lot of time watering, planting, replanting, and side dressing our plants lately. This extreme (100+degree) heat and no rain these last few days have been hurting us. I'm a little nervous about these desert conditions so early in the summer. Anyway, thanks for the reminder.

Les, thanks for the lesson:) I will check up on the fish also. I'm pretty sure they are okay since my friends have them living in their ponds.

Thanks for the comments. Love to get feedback.


Jason said...

Awesome post you guys. We had some friends from the neighborhood over the other ngiht with their kids and pulled the scope out and looked at preserved insects and caterpillars that had recently hatched. They ATE IT UP. So did the adults. Reminded me of when we did this in Knoxville that time you all visited. Good stuff and even better that you are doing it "In Vivo" like you are so continuously. We cant wait to see yall.

As a reminder, you can search for species by latin or common name on when you find critters/plants and get the most up to date info on conservation status, ecology , distribution maps by season, etc. Its a great companion to the field guide. I use it all the time. There's a link to it from our blog. Here's a direct to the lizard and the snake. much love and keep poking around and learning!

William Kruidenier said...

Re: Jason's post below where the URLs got cut off in the posting of the comment.

When the URLs came through in the RSS email feed they were complete, but so long that they got cut off when posted to the comments section of the blog. When posting really long URLs in email or other settings (like blog posts) you can use the function at to shrink long URLs down to a fraction of their size which makes them suitable for posting.

You can add a TinyURL button to your browser's menu bar so you can make the exchange on-the-fly (or at least quicker than going to the web site).

In the case of Jason's URLs that got cut off, I was going to convert them to TinyURLs but the links had timed out -- some search-return links like that are time-sensitive and will "time out" making them no longer accessible. You have to do the initial search again. So if Jason wants to add another comment here on the search terms he used at, people could then do their own search and see the results he found.

Jason said...

William, thanks for the info there. Very helpful. I will download the button but for now, in the interest of time and to give folks reason to go to NS and check it out from the homepage, I will include little instructions. So, I just went to Near top, far right on the screen there is a frame with two short statements about searching the database: one for the U.S and Canada (NatureServe Explorer)db and one for Latin America (InfoNatura). Click the hyperlinked "search" for NatureServe Explorer and you get to a search box as well as a page to describe the database... You can enter common or latin names, where latin names are, as always, most likely to turn up the species you are looking for. In this case I just entered "slender glass lizard" and "yellow rat snake" and got what I was looking for. More info there for the lizard than the snake, and generally speaking, often common species are less info rich than rare things because this database is fueled by continuous data from member Natural Heritage programs which all have a focus on protecting rare species and ecosystems. But try it to look up anything and you can find some really cool summaries and range maps on what, "over 70K plants, animals and systems"... at any rate...enjoy. Thanks again William.

William Kruidenier said...

Thanks Jason -- the NS site is amazing. How did we do this stuff before the Internet came along? :-)