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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Hey Baby

Here's another highly detailed shot of my un-manicured hands.

When you're around baby mantises (go to your local nursery and by an egg sac), you become attuned to their funny little hops. That's how I spotted this one. I just saw it out of the corner of my eye, but it was the type of movement that identified it. Adults are much harder to spot.

Now that I've been mucking about in the Colorado bush for a while I'm starting to feel like I'm becoming familiar with a bit of the body language. Moths, skippers and butterflies all have distinct ways of flying, landing and postures. Flies mimicking bees don't fly like bees. Tiger beetles zoom in short bursts low along the path. Gnats fly around my head. (I guess this one isn't really unique knowledge.) Other bugs like stink bugs creep around to the opposite side of a stem very slowly, while grasshoppers creep until you get close and then with a burst of yellow, orange or red explode out of their hiding place -- only to land a few feet in front of you and in your current path.

Then there are the creatures that hide very well, but in predictable spots. Burrowing wolf spiders hang out generally just below the ground. The entrance to their burrow is an almost perfect circle slightly raised above ground level with a silken rim entwining small twigs and dried grass. You can almost always guarantee an ambush bug sighting on the native waist high sunflowers -- or when you see the body of a bee, hover fly or wasp inexplicably dangling from a flower. A shallow funnel shaped web, dirty, water spotted, and covered in little pieces of debris, will always have a funnel web spider at the base, just give an outer web blade of grass a little wiggle and it'll come out.

And finally, there are the creatures that move so fast and often, they're just hard to get a close look at. Dragonflies and butterflies seem to be unpredictable, but you can watch a dragonfly making circuits and stopping at the same twig or cattail. Butterflies are more chaotic. You may know the type of flower but not which on specifically. When in doubt, hang out by damp ground on a hot day. They come to drink.

I suppose these aren't great or grand revelations, just things I didn't know when I first began to wander slowly. It does make me feel just a bit more nature literate.
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