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.

Would You Eat off a Dirty Plate?

by Donna Lewis

Would you like to eat off a dirty plate? Birds probably will, but it is not safe for them.

So, I bet your feeders are not clean. It’s a nasty job we all hate to do.  Let’s face it, it’s work!

Gotta clean out these seeds that are stuck to the feeder after a rain.

But a dirty bird feeder can transmit Salmonella enterica bacteria. Nasty…

Soap and water is not enough to do the job. Ole faithful…BLEACH is what is needed.

Your necessary cleaning supplies.

1. First, clear all the old seeds out of the feeder.  Use a brush or putty remover because it will be like concrete to remove.

2. Wash the feeder with soap and water, scrubbing it good.  Then dunk it in a bleach/water solution.  A nine to one solution is recommended.

3. Next it must be completely dry before you add any seed again.  Don’t get in a hurry.

Having a few extra feeders helps you rotate them.

Dunking in process. Note the rubber gloves!

4.  Next clean under the feeders. Get rid of the old moldy seeds on the ground. Dispose of them so the birds cannot eat them again. They’re birds, they don’t know any different.

It’s a very good idea to wear rubber gloves while doing this. Birds can transmit some diseases

A good photo instructional to watch is www.wikihow.pet/clean-Birdfeeders.

Have fun…

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.

The Big Kahuna Lizard Thing

by Donna Lewis

Just the other day, I was in my garden and leaned against an oak tree with my hand. Something heavy and wet then scooted  across my hand. Boy, I pulled my hand back just in time to see the biggest lizard looking thing I ever saw in my garden!

Broad-headed skink, iNaturalist photo by (c) Alan R. Biggs. Creative Commons. 

After I composed myself, I looked a little closer to the beast. It was the biggest skink I ever came across. It climbed up to the higher parts of the tree and ducked inside a hole.

It turned out to be a Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps). This fellow likes dead trees usually near a forest environment. That makes another good use for a snag (dead tree).

These skinks can look very different. This one is from © Dawn Carrie, and was observed July 3 of this year.

This skink eats insects and other small lizards. I was glad to discover that humans were not on the list.

It was pretty neat seeing it. Keep your eyes open, and maybe you’ll see one, too.

Nature has amazing creatures everywhere. You just need to look.

How Glorious to Be Able to Fly

by Donna Lewis

Recently I had several clutches of Purple Martins fledge out into the world.  There are more to come soon.

Newly hatched babies.

When they fledge, they make their first flight and leave the nest. A big step that must be successful the first time.  Talk about pressure.

Getting close to fledging.

Right now they still perch on the gourd rack, but are out in the new world learning to fly, hunt, and socialize with their friends. They sing so loud and often; I know they must be laughing at the pure joy of it all.

Singing their songs

How I have dreamed of flying and looking at the earth from above. I think many of us have that dream.

The Martins will be here in the US for about another eight weeks or so. Then they start to gather in huge roosts, waiting till their instincts tell them it is time to fly to their winter home in Brazil. They have dual citizenship.

In Brazil, they live in the trees until winter is over, and once again they return here to have their babies. It will be the only time they live in gourds or other man-made houses.

A very full nest box

Their song is beautiful and one of the reasons they are so loved. It is so silent after they leave.  I count the weeks till they return.

Donna Lewis 
Proud Purple Martin Landlord