Don’t Bite My Head Off

by Donna Lewis

Earlier this week, I happened to be checking my Martin House poles when I thought I saw something in the netting  around the poles.  I looked closer and there was a female Mantid (Praying Mantis) who had gotten tangled in the netting.

It took me an hour to get her out unharmed.  As soon as she was free she flew onto my arm and proceeded to climb up till she was on my shoulder.  She looked at me with her triangular shaped head and turned her head back and forth.  Kinda neat and creepy at the same time.  I guess we were bonding…

Ms. Mantid

Mantids are a sit-and-wait predator. The females are larger than the males. It is rumored that sometimes if a second male comes near her during mating, well, she just eats the first guy by biting his head off. Maybe that’s where that saying comes from?

They mostly eat other insects or small lizards. They do call to attract a mate, but otherwise are silent. 

She was interesting to say the least, and I guess she was thanking me for saving her, because when she finally flew down to the grass, she started following me.

I finally out-distanced her and everyone went home.

This is a bonus photo of a green lynx spider Donna saw. It’s messing with a butterfly.

Nature is everywhere.  You just have to look.

Water Feature Fun for Beauty, Conservation, and Natural Habitat

by Pamela Neeley

Note from Suna: Pamela Neeley from the El Camino Real chapter has been working with water features on her property for the past few months (years), creating not only areas of beauty (sight and sound), but places for aquatic plants to flourish, and wildlife to sustain themselves on. I toured her property a couple of weeks ago and encouraged her to share some of her ideas and techniques with fellow Master Naturalists. Maybe you can borrow of her creative thoughts some in your own gardens and wild areas!

Here’s another example of a dripping faucet connection caught into a container. Cats and dogs like this one, too.

Turtle Nests after Rain

Hi. I know we haven’t posted much. Blame the blogmaster, Suna, who has been doing a huge work project and hasn’t had extra energy. However, over this weekend you’ll hear from more of our chapter!

I (Suna) just wanted to quickly share what I found on my walk today, where I was checking out flooding. I saw what looked like trash on the roadside in front of my ranch, on County Road 140. I looked closer, and I realized it was eggshells!

Eggshells next to a depression.

They were not hard. They were rubbery and soft. Judging from the nest, I figure they were turtle eggs. That made me happy, because I’d never seen a nest in my nine years of exploring this area.

Egg up close. Turtle?

I’m not 100% sure what it is. Maybe snakes? But it appears the rain encouraged a lot of them to head on out. I found a second nest with shells.

another nest.

Now, maybe a skunk or raccoon found them and had a snack, but I didn’t see any carcasses. I did see what appear to be another couple of nests in the area, so my plants is to go back and check them in a couple of weeks.

I’m heading back to the pond!

I’ve seen a lot of turtles in the road lately. Maybe they were laying. I think we have red eared sliders and pond sliders, both native, though the red eared ones are considered invasive.

In Search of Ant Lions

Suna learned about ant lions this week.

The Hermits' Rest

A set of fortuitous circumstances have led me to have something more in the naturalist vein to write about. I’ve been missing those things! It all started when I was in the horse pen, and noticed all these cool paths in the dirt.

In addition to the trails, there are a couple of donkey hoof prints, to liven things up.

I couldn’t remember what made those trails, though I was sure I used to know, so I posted about it on Facebook. I got some cute and silly guesses, then, as I’d hoped, someone from around Cameron reminded me of the answer. Burton, who’d been in my Master Naturalist class, identified them as ant lion, or doodlebug, trails. These Myrmeleontidae (it means ant lion!) are commonly called “doodlebugs,” because their trails make them look like they’re doodling around.

I knew THESE were ant ions!

The reason I should have known…

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The Barking Baby

By Donna Lewis

A few days ago, I was headed out to the back pasture when I walked right up to a tiny Pocket Gopher with his little back end up in the air as he was digging in the ground.

Dirt was flying everywhere.  He must have gotten out in the open because there was no tunnel to dive into.

I’m thinking… buddy you need to watch what you’re doing or one of my dogs will get you because you are not paying attention.

So I reached down and touched him on his little tail.

Lordy mercy…he jumped up and started running around my boot barking at me.

I was laughing so hard.

I had my camera in my pocket so I took a photo of him.  He was really telling me what he thought.

Angry little pocket gopher!

And no, I never kill these little creatures, even though they eat things in my garden. They aerate the soil and add organic matter to the areas where they are. So they do some good for us. 

Everything has a purpose.