Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bird's Nest Fungus

The Girl found this group of Crucibulum Bird's Nest Fungus in our backyard. To give you some idea of the scale, the jagged green in the upper right of the first image is the edge of a strawberry leaf.

Each little cup is filled with minuscule "eggs" - each attached to the cup by a slender cord.

Last year I found a single cup attached to a twig at the local park and showed it to her. She knew exactly what she had found. Sometimes she does listen.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Orange-Painted Box Turtle.

The other evening the Girl came across this Ornate Box Turtle crossing the road in our neighborhood.

This specimen was not ornate enough apparently, as someone felt that it needed a coat of orange paint. I could see that a Three-toed Turtle could use some sprucing up, but this guy? Shame! I suspect an OSU fan.

That would explain a lot.

It seemed pretty used to being handled. It chose to snap at us when our hands got in range rather than pull into its shell.

I wanted to help, so I chased it around with a belt-sander for a while. When it got beyond the extension cord I just let it go.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Oklahoma Attic-dwelling Toad.

A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were having coffee on what we begrudgingly call our back porch, when we heard the telltale flopping sound that we have come to recognize as one of our denizen toads. Our porch is a haven for perhaps half a dozen of these dour and by all appearances perpetually bored creatures. In the cooler evening hours they emerge within a few minutes of each other and go about their toady business.

That we heard one moving about in the the morning was odd enough, but it was the persistence of the flopping finally drove me to investigate. (Sometimes when they manage to corner themselves, they decide that a dogged application of a frontal assault on the obstruction will win out over just turning around.)

After a few minutes of poking around amongst garden tools, toys, and other detritus, I came up empty. Unlikely as it seemed, the sound was coming from overhead. I spied some movement in one our homes many screened soffit vents. Fetching a ladder and a prybar, I investigated.

Sitting on the screen was a toad that was easily as large as my clenched fist. It glared at my balefully, then made a majestic leap towards the nearby porch roof. Preferring death over suffering the indignities of my touch, the leap was far short. It plummeted 8 feet to the concrete patio below where it landed with a pronounced "plok." Surprisingly, it suffered no ill effects from the fall and it soon ambled about seeking further shelter. ( I run into him most evenings now. He has a favorite perch on a piece of scrap wood that offers it a commanding view of the backyard.)

I have no idea how it came to be in our attic, or why it would motivated to do so. A survey of our homes exterior yielded no obvious path of entry. Even considering that our house is faced with brick, it would still be a pretty long trek for an animal not really known for it's climbing prowess.

The mystery deepens: The next day when I went to repair the soffit vent there was a different slightly smaller toad perched on the flap of screen. Was it waiting to be removed, or to be closed up?
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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Spring cleaning.

While Deb cleaned the back porch the spider hung motionless, watching her hair. Loving it. Wondering what it would be like to luxuriate in the silken tresses. To unburden herself of the massive clutch of eggs. Waiting.

When I got home that afternoon, I saw the canopy of web. Thinking that it was another massive wolf spider that frequently set up shop, I took a closer look. (They are always fun to feed.) The architecture struck me as a bit different from the norm. Rather than a single sheet that the spider would run along on top of, it was a complex sparkling latticework that occupied a volume rather than a single plane. Also the "house" was underneath the web, instead of on top and tucked back in a crevice.

A peek into the round opening revealed the truth. Deb was thrilled to realize that she spent most of that morning unknowingly face-to-face with this splendor of nature. After taking some images of the beastie and showing the kids what to look out for, the creature was humanely dispatched with a judicious application of chemicals. Its twitching carcass then gently placed upon the lid of an old coal stove and beaten with a rock until reduced to a sub-quantum level. (It's OK - I have been buying arachnid offsets through a payroll deduction.)

The web is a curious material. Stronger than a steel wire of the same diameter, the web makes a distinctive crackling sound when torn. I harvested it by wrapping it around a pair of bamboo skewers. I'm not sure if this is the best way to go about it, but I am hoping to collect enough to make a wristband or some-such thing.

If you are interested in Oklahoman critters like Black Widows and Brown Recluses, I highly recommend the book "The Red Hourglass: Lives of the Predators" by Gordon Grice. Especially if you have been planning on never setting foot outside your house, or raising your children in some sort of air-tight box.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Painting the town red.

Great year for Indian Paintbrush. I'd usually see patches here and there along the roads, but never a field completely choaked with the stuff.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Earlier this week, the trees outside the musuem where I work had grown an layer of frost on top of the ice left by the freezing rain.

I suspect that it might have been created by the proximity of the building's climate control exhaust, but I have never been witness to the steam traveling that far.
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