Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Last week, I was going to write about the Wildlife Festival, but I got sidetracked by Wonder Woman.

Or something.

Which is really ok, from your point of view, because I didn't, in fact, attend much of the wildlife festival.  When you have 1) a tank full of frogs that you're actually willing to let people hold, and 2) a feisty turtle with really sharp nails that you're also willing to let people hold, you don't get a lot of time to explore and report back.

Really. Sharp. Nails.

But she makes people happy.
Even one-armed people

(I liked this kid.  We both had an arm in a sling and didn't let that stop us. We were kindred spirits.  I bet he fell out of an armored personnel carrier, too.  He had that level of cool.)

I heard from about 136 kids that the whole thing was fantastic, and that they got to hang with eagles (etc) as well as frogs, and there was a bunch of great music and a bunch of great games and crafts and everybody won honeysticks from the bee guy.  Also there was cake.  A big giant birthday cake for everybody.

Except for me.

Because I was hanging with the kids and the frogs over in the kids and frogs station.  Damn frogs.  They make a girl popular, and popular girls don't have time for cake.

I never knew that before.

If I think about it enough, it will probably really transform my memories of jr. high school, don't you think?

So I was going to skip writing about the whole Wildlife Festival thing in general, because, in that way that things happen which convinces you beyond reasonable doubt that the universe just  mocks us continuously,  this past weekend was way wildlifier, from my perspective, than the frogs-and-turtles-booth at the festival.

Yes, wildlifier is a word.  I made it myself.  And the last few days: wildlifey.  What I would do, if I was a good blogger, is show you really awesome photographs of the deer, and the fox, and the rare snakes, and the rare birds, that showed up in my backyard this weekend, just so you can understand for yourself how much the universe enjoys mocking me.  I spent two solid months looking for wildlife to show at a festival, and you want to know how many cool species showed up  in my yard the weekend after it was over?  Ten.


But I'm not a good blogger, because this is the best photograph I managed to take of the gorgeous young stag, antlers still in velvet, browsing blackberry behind the house:

It's a mule deer, I swear.

Yeah. You've seen better photographs of Bigfoot.  This is not my forte.

So I call up my friend Ivan.  Ivan is the hands-down best wildlife photographer I've ever known. Or fired, which I do frequently because it calms him when he gets overworked. AND, bonus for all of my 6 readers, he has all the photographs of the cedar waxwings, orange-bellied ring-neck snakes, red tail hawks, and red foxes that your little hearts could desire.  AND, he was bugging me just last week about when he'd get a mention in my blog.  But has Ivan sent me any photographs yet?

No he has not.  Ivan, love, you're totally fired.

The closest I got was a photo of wildlife watchers, which frankly?  Not as pretty.

But maybe funnier.

You want to see my best wildlife photo of the last month?  And by best I mean actually in focus despite terrible lighting and framing?

Isn't she gorgeous??

That's a sharp-tail snake I found in the five minutes I got to sneak away from the frogs-and-turtles at the festival.  I snuck away to see if there was still a newt under a log by the pond, and instead, I found this absolutely beautiful girl, curled up in the sun.  So I called my buddy Matt, who you now understand is the guy with the turtle, because he is the best snake catcher I had around.  Also, I shy away from getting bit, even if by very very very small teeth.

Always have a turtle guy around if you happen to need to catch a snake without getting bit.  They're convenient.

So Matt comes over, and holy shmokes, for a big guy, he can move quick.  I think I will rename him.

The Guy with the Turtle and Hands Like Lightning.

Matt caught me the snake. Awesome!  Because if there's anything better than letting a hundred little kids hold frogs and vampire-clawed turtles, it's letting them hold frogs, vampire-clawed turtles, and really cool snakes. 

So for the rest of the afternoon

HOLY SHMUTZ POTATOES!  There is a CATERPILLAR on my COUCH.  Right freaking next to me.

Hold on.  I will show you. I will photograph him before he attacks.

This caterpillar things is out of control.  You know where I found a caterpillar yesterday?  Hanging from a thread (these puppies have webs like spiders) from the ceiling of my car.  Driver's side.  Right where my head goes.
You know where else? Also yesterday?  Under my bed.  I went to pick up a toy some wretched kid had left there, and it was crawling with a caterpillar.  I threw them both out the window. Not the kid. The toy bounced.  I didn't check on the caterpillar.

Listen.  I like living with oak trees.  They are pretty and the acorns are scenic in that cute little we-can-make-garden-gnomes-out-of-these-or-peg-them-at-people way.  They provide excellent shade on hot summer days and probably do something to alleviate global warming.  But I do not like oak-caterpillar-season, and I do not think that I should be forced to dodge disgusting creepy things with too many legs and attack-faces in my car and under my bed and on my couch when I am trying to write about  cute things like snakes.

Here he is.  He totally has attack face on.  I took this, and then I threw him out the window, too.  I had to use some paper because the couch would not have fit.  Also, my husband might have questioned the couch/window decision. Take that, you galaxy-invading-squish monster!

Look at him!  He is rearing up on his 80 hind legs, trying to kill me!

Ahem.  Before we were interrupted by a foul blot of wriggling inhumanity (and by the way, the babies of every other species in the world are adorable.  Except for baby insects. Who are vile. What is up with that, Mother Nature?  Don't you think the butterfly population of the world would be doing a bit better if you'd bothered to make their babies look like tiny little kittens?  That might have been the way to go, hmmm?)

 So ANYway,

 Nope.  I can't even do it.  I can't even get back to the story I was trying to tell you about my gorgeous little sharp-tail.

I can tell you this, though.  The kids were thrilled with her.  They and Guy with Hands Like Lightning passed her back and forth for the next hour.  She didn't mind at all, though.

Because she was dead.  We discovered this about 30 seconds after her lightning fast, super-stealth, would-otherwise-have-been-truly-impressive capture.  And yes, that means my best wildlife photo of the month was of a dead snake.

But the kids. Apparently they're totally thrilled with passing around (and cuddling! cuddling! for reals!) a dead snake.  Which really, is completely disgusting.

Kids. Caterpillars. There's more than one similarity.


  1. Ummm, I'm sorry, let me get this straight, the beautiful little sharp tailed snake was dead? From the beginning? I mean, from the moment that guy with hands like lightning caught her, she was... deceased? Was she sort of limp and unmoving, or with residual energy left to make her coils seem springy and ... ummm... alive? Didn't anybody notice that she wasn't ambulatory, or did the speedy impressiveness of G W H L L give such a riveting (and distracting) display of Vegas card-sharp sleight-of-hand that he... oh I dunno... puppeteered the little critter into illusory life? Mmmmm. Just wondering here.

    Just a few weeks back I noticed a little frog sitting under the really big apple tree in our garden. Nothing unusual in that beyond the fact that our population of frogs is normally active and visible after dark, and this solitary one was sunning himself in the long grass at mid morning. I peered closely. He was sleek and glossy, a handsome little fellow. He sat upright with his head raised to bask in the Spring warmth, and I tip-toed away so as not to disturb him. Two weeks later I was filling the bird-feeders in the same spot, and when I bent down to pick up a dropped lid, I saw the little frog again, in exactly the same spot. Only this time he was darker and more... thin. And, as it turned out when I prodded him, dead. In fact mummified. As dried out as an over-baked biscuit. So rather heartrendingly, what I had taken for his head raised in sun worship, had in reality been the way he had been caught in a ground frost one night weeks before, raising himself up on his front legs to catch onto life, but missing it. And ever since the juices had dried away, leaving the little frog, skinny and black and hard-as-iron, yet in a death-throe that looked so life-affirmingly alive. I don't deny that I shed a tear for that little chap, so calmly, so hopefully, so lethally raising his head to the stars as the frost took him.


  2. Oh, I'm SO glad you blogged about your frog. That story definitely needed to be shared with your readers. And painted. It's going to make an amazing little cameo in a painting somewhere, I'm sure.

    I hate finding dead frogs, so I sympathize deeply. They are such cheery, jolly, alive little creatures, just joie de vivre through and through, so dead ones really are a bit wrenching. Especially when you'd been enjoying your frog's joie, and then, well, it wasn't joie after all.

    There's a terrible bird in California - one shouldn't call wildlife terrible, really. But this one - the loggerhead shrike - has a particularly grisly hunting pattern. It catches its prey, large insects, or lizards or frogs, and then it spears them on thorns and leaves them there, coming back to eat them later. There's areas in the farm country in California where I just have to avert my eyes as I drive because the roads are bordered by barbed wire, and the barbs are decorated like a sort of Dante's Christmas Tree. Dessicated frogs and lizards, as far as the eye can see...

    To answer your question, I thought when I found her that she was curled up sleeping in the sun. As did GWHLL.
    She definitely seemed to have residual spring in her coils. It took a while before I was convinced she wasn't just playing dead - some snakes do - but actually so. I have no idea what happened to her. GWHLL thought she must've been stepped on, but though he pointed to a small possible squish mark towards her tail, I was not convinced that it was either an actual squish mark, or if it was, a fatal injury. I've seen snakes with broken backs who are paralyzed from the waist down and still very (very) lively*. And she seemed to have been very very fresh, pre rigor mortis. I suppose it's possible she died of a heart attack when Matt grabbed her, but Matt and I have caught many a snake together, and that's certainly not the expected or normal reaction.

    *Was staying at my cousin's house in Australia. Walked barefoot into the kitchen to make breakfast one morning only to find a jet black, and very very shiny snake in the middle of the kitchen floor, like polished onyx, paralyzed from the waist down, from what looked like a cat bite. Cats and snakes did frequent battle in that garden. Now I'm no expert on Australian snakes, but I do know a lot of them fall into the one-bite-and-you're-dead category, and polished jet snake had a venomous look about him that I couldn't get behind. Also, despite being 1/2 paralyzed, he kept striking at me. Like the caterpillar above, but bigger and faster and actually potentially dangerous to more than just my psyche. So I climbed on the dining room table and stayed there until my cousin Rob came and swept him outside with a long handled broom.