Bright Green Spider: Wear Goggles if You Get Close!

by Donna Lewis

So, while walking along our back fence, I see this brilliant green spider on a fence post.

All the other posts were taken by pairs of grasshoppers. Love is in the air.

Suna got to watch these differential grasshoppers show their love on her rocking chair.

I did not know what the spider was, which is why I got really close with my camera to take this photo.    After I sent the photo to my go-to specialists, Eric Neubauer and Linda Jo Conn, I learned that it was a Green Lynx Spider, common in our area.

I also learned that when a female is guarding her 600 green eggs, she can squirt some venom about one foot away!  Wow I won’t get so close again. It was beginner’s luck that I didn’t get venom in my face!

This spider is a hunter. It goes after prey, while some spiders weave their webs to catch their prey. It loves moths and bees and most insects.

Lately we have seen more spiders in our house, just not one of this kind. I know what you are thinking, does she kill them? I actually do try to catch and release. Sometimes I can’t, but I try. Everything has a purpose.

Frog and Toad Research on My Property

by Donna Lewis

Hello,

We just received the results from an acoustic monitoring event that was performed by Dr. Paul Crump, a biologist from the Texas Park and Wildlife Department. He is a Herpetologist in the Nongame and Rare Species Program.

First of all he was checking out Milam County to look for the Houston toad. This toad was recorded in this county years ago, but not found here in the past few years.

Attaching the song meter

It was really interesting to see how this survey was done. Dr. Crump placed a recording box to a tree near our small pond at the back of our property. It is called a song meter and recorded two hours of audio every night from January 28, 2021 until June 12, 2021.

Then Dr. Trump retrieved the box and took it with him where he had the tedious job of listening to hundreds of hours of frogs and toads singing, so he could identify each species. Wow what a task! You really have to know your stuff to do it.

Song meter at work

Sadly there were no songs of the Houston toad recorded, but he did identify seven different frogs and toads! I did not know we had that many on our property. Very neat.

I hope this report does not make its way to the snakes that live near me. They will be arriving here pretty fast for lunch. I have learned more about these creatures by looking up each one of them. Thanks to Dr. Paul Crump.

My New Friend the Water Snake Returned

by Donna Lewis

Well since I wrote about the yellowbelly water snake eating my toad friend, it returned.

I thought it had left since it had eaten my little friend.  Sadly, it liked the hole the toad had wallered out and decided that it would take up residence there.

Hole, before filling in

So, now I could see its head poking out the hole under the water faucet every time I used the hose. All I could think about was it might be a girl and she would have her babies there. Not a good thing.   

I didn’t want to hurt it, but it needed to go back to our woods, where the pond is. My Linda also said it must go. She would have been happy to get the shotgun and blast away. I could not let that happen.

So, all I could think to do was to remove the little area under the faucet and fill it in. Of course, the snake was in the hole while I got started. How exciting.

Tools are ready!

I put on my snake leggings, just in case it wanted to bite me. Then I got everything I might need to do this task.  I got a hoe, shovel, dirt, and some rocks and put them close to the area.

Protection

Then, I lifted the flat rock that I placed there to keep the water from making a hole.  As soon as I lifted it, Mr. or Mrs. Snake came flying out and lunged at me. 

I had the shovel, so I flipped the snake away and started trying to scare it. I kept moving towards it and flipping it about five feet away. It actually was bucking in the air!  It was both terrifying and funny at the same time. 

At last, the snake finally decided I meant business and took off across the pasture.  Yes!

I quickly dug out the hole and then filled it in with all the stuff I had assembled. This was last week, and so far no snake.

All covered up

Who would believe this, but it’s true. No snake was hurt during this adventure.

To Edge or Not to Edge?

by Donna Lewis

Hello all.

Keeping our gardens looking neat is something most of us do. For years, when I lived in Houston, I would use a weed eater and trim with a pair of scissors.  Yes I was crazy. I thought the garden looked great!

Away with the weed eater!

So, over the years, as I learned more about nature and taking good care of it, I have altered the way I do things.

How many of you have had the awful experience of zipping along with a weed eater and cut a poor little frog in half?  I can hardly write about it. But you know it happens…so what to do?

Our toad friend.

I have found a safer way to edge the garden.  Yes it is a little more work, but my little friends are worth it. Use a sharp-shooter shovel and go slow. You will see the frogs and toads move before you hurt them. Then, you pull all the grass away from the edge, and it actually lasts longer than cutting the tops off the grass. I also find that if you edge after it has rained it’s even easier.

My technique. Doesn’t it look good?

Just a little tip from someone who loves all the critters.

Have You Been Seeing Flocks of Small Purple Martins?

by Donna Lewis

I have been getting numerous calls from people about this phenomenon. 

There’s something on the fence, but what?

Most of our purple martins have left our area for Brazil now. There could be a few lost souls who just don’t want to fly fast, but most have gone south. So, what is it that everyone is seeing, including myself?

Mystery birds on a wire.

We are seeing northern rough-winged swallows.  They are in the same swallow family as the purple martins. Their Latin name is Stelgidopteryx serripennis. They are smaller and make much less noise.  Unlike the martins, they fly closer to the ground to catch live insects.  They also perch lower on fences.  Their breasts are white and they have smaller blunt-looking tails.   

Northern rough-winged swallow in Arizona. Photo by heyitshelios on iNaturalist.

The rough-winged swallows are going south also, but stop around Mexico. They are solitary unless they are migrating.

This will help you ID them in flight. Photo by davidpickett on iNaturalist.

For me the way I really know them is that they are much quieter than our martin friends. But for a moment I was reminded of the Martins and it brought a smile to my face.

Have a wonderful stay in your winter retreat little friends.