Neighborhood Nature (Pt. 18)

Photo: Sunrise over Horseshoe Bay, Texas
Sunrise over Horseshoe Bay as viewed through the windshield of my truck

I think an appropriate sub-title for this post would be “The Mystery Edition,” because there’s some stuff here that I can’t explain.

Take the following short video, for example. I’ve watched it a dozen times and have come to the following conclusions. First, the two insects appear to be a species of ant, and the large one could be a female (and, possibly, a queen) and the small one a male worker. Second, they’re communicating with each other, via either the “dance” or their antennae, or perhaps a combination of both. And, third…forget all of that. It’s really a pre-teen ant bugging (see what I did there?) his or her mom to let them go to the mall with all the other kids whose moms are much cooler. [Can I, mom? Huh? Huh? Can I? Can I?] But, I could be wrong. What do you think?

Then there’s this photo:

Photo: Green mushrooms/toadstools growing in a pot
Mushrooms? Toadstools? Nuclear waste?

Debbie pointed out this tiny crop of fungi growing in a pot on our deck. I thought they were quite photogenic. But when I imported them into Affinity Photo to edit for this post, I noticed something very strange. Here’s a zoomed in look at what I’m referring to:

Photo: Unidentified creature. Is it a frog? A lizard? A salamander? Beats me.
Frog? Lizard? Salamander? Mutant demon spawn?

Whatever that bug-eyed creature is, it’s no longer in the pot, and now I have to worry about how well-sealed our house is.

OK, I already know the answer to that. Here’s what was in our bathroom a couple of mornings ago:

Photo: Texas redheaded centipede
This is the real mutant demon spawn.

This is, of course, a Texas redheaded centipede (Scolopendra heros), possibly the creepiest of the creepy crawlers you’ll ever encounter. This one was around 6″ long (I guess; I didn’t ask it to pose while I took measurements); they grow longer than that, especially in captivity (and that fact raises a number of other questions that a psychiatrist is perhaps more qualified to answer).

Now, while I don’t particularly mind them when they’re outside, I have a strict no-centipede-in-the-house policy, which I enforce with extreme prejudice, if you get my drift. This one will now haunt us only in our nightmares, and not in our bathroom. But if you really want some haunting images, check out this video:

Was it a bad idea? Ask Charles Darwin.

Let’s shift our attention to some cuter things, how ’bout? We’ve recently heard from neighbors who once again are spotting animals along the creek that they can’t identify. It’s described as a mammal, perhaps a large feline, bigger than a coyote, with a long, black-tipped tail. It’s not particularly shy, but it also doesn’t approach humans. I’m intrigued, and also more than a little disappointed that I haven’t encountered it, but I’m trying to gather evidence of its existence and identity. To that end, I’m setting out a couple of trail cameras along the wilder stretches of the creek behind our neighborhood, and leaving them there for about 48 hours to see what might wander into view.

So far, nothing out of the ordinary has appeared…just the usual deer, raccoons, and opossums. That’s not a total loss, though, because it’s at least provided a bit of entertainment, like the following series of photos captured during the past two nights.

Raccoon selfies are a thing now.

A couple of curious raccoons couldn’t resist inspecting one of the cameras that was placed on a rock in the middle of the dry creek bed. I also captured plenty of photos of raccoon butts and other body parts, but this is a family blog so you’ll have to use your imagination.

Here is another photo that bears a closer look. This is a view of a portion of our back deck. Your eye is probably initially drawn to the colorful geckos climbing the trunk of the pecan tree…

Photo: view of deck in our back yard

…but if you look past the tree, you’ll spot this:

Photo: Squirrel draped over the back of a chaise lounge

It appears that this squirrel has decided that the concrete is too warm for splooting, so it’s chosen a different method to keep cool.

Derpy snake clipart

Here there be sneks!

I’m throwing this next photo in simply to update the Official Historical Records. It’s a photo of terrible quality, but the subject is a tiny snake of a species that neither Debbie nor I have seen before in the wild. And, in reality, I still haven’t seen it, as she took the photo just before the little snake disappeared into a hole in the border of one of our flower beds.

The head of the snake is hidden in the rock.

This is an Eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platirhinos). If you click over to the linked Wikipedia article, you’ll note that it’s described as a rear-fanged, slightly venomous snake (and if you scroll down to the Common Names section you’ll find more than two dozen references, often weird and overly-dramatic references such as chunk head and spreading nelly. In some of the snake ID Facebook groups to which I belong, hognoses are often referred to as drama noodles, due to their habits of first trying to head butt a perceived threat (real or imagined) — without attempting to bite — and then of rolling over on their backs and playing dead, sometimes with their tongues hanging out of their mouths.

The description of it being “slightly venomous” is also a bit misleading. Its venom is mild and is amphibian-specific, as it preys on toads, frogs, and salamanders. The venom is not harmful to humans, although it’s theoretically possible to have an allergic reaction to it. The biggest problem, according to accounts posted by those who keep the snakes in captivity, is that in the rare case of a bite, they tend to clamp down and chew a bit, sometimes until cold water is poured on their head to cause a release. And, of course, even small puncture wounds can become infected if not cleaned properly.

In any event, none of that is really relevant to us, because we (1) are not likely to see another one for seven more years, and (b) will not under any circumstance try to catch or handle one.

One last thing…

Old newspaper headline: Noisy, Hungry Frogs Sadden Farmer's Life
There’s never a hognose snake around when you need one.

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