One Naughty Squirrel, A Couple of Herps AND A Big Surprise

This is my contribution to Wildlife Wednesday which is hosted by Tina at My Gardener Says. Her invitation: to share pictures & experiences of local wildlife on the first Wednesday of each month.

Caught in the act!

It sounded like hail falling but I knew it was really a squirrel eating green pecans and tossing away the hard bits. The debris is sharp enough that I need to wear shoes outside now. Weather lore says that when squirrels eat green nuts a hard winter approaches but here’s another theory: she is sick of sunflower seeds and impatient for something new and sweet. We didn’t have a pecan harvest last year so it must be a bit like having a new restaurant open up in the neighbourhood. Is she smiling or am I wrong?

naughty squirrel
naughty squirrel

Treehugger

I was really hoping to get a picture of a nice pink gecko. ‘Tis the season when they start looking for shelter but no sightings, yet.

I did see this little guy. As far as I can tell this is a tree lizard, Urosaurus ornatus. The scales look so polished and glossy I could almost imagine him slipping through river rocks instead of clinging to tree bark.

treehugger3
Urosaurus ornatus

I like this next picture because it shows how well they blend into an arboreal environment. He was giving the stink eye to my cat suntanning on a bench below. She was happily oblivious.

Urosaurus ornatus
Urosaurus ornatus

My buddy Mr. Toad …

mr toad 2
Mister is his first name. Surname: Toad.

now loiters near the front door. A tiny but brawny bouncer. Does the world seem more precious when seen through gemstones?

And a Surprise!

I see squirrels and lizards all the time. But I have never before seen a blue and orange wasp! This gorgeous fellow is A TARANTULA HAWK! We met while I was admiring the wild peppervine yesterday.

Pepsis elegans
Pepsis elegans
Pepsis
Pepsis elegans

I am glad I didn’t bump into his lover. Don’t EVER make a female tarantula hawk angry. The infamous entomologist Justin Schmidt (who has been stung by everything) says she has one of the most painful stings in the world — he has described it as like being hit by 20,000 volts. Luckily, the effect wears off within five minutes and they don’t go around looking for fights.

The couple enjoy flowers for their own nourishment but they run a kind of macabre household. Inside their underground lair a paralysed tarantula lies awake while baby tarantula hawks slowly consume its body.  oh wow lovely

More on the Schmidt Insect Sting Pain Index …

from http://www.compoundchem.com/ via Wikipedia
from http://www.compoundchem.com/ via Wikipedia
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14 thoughts on “One Naughty Squirrel, A Couple of Herps AND A Big Surprise

  1. Oh, I am so sad that I don’t have any frogs or toads around my garden. The tarantula wasp you can keep, though he is very striking. You’re also welcome to all the tarantulas. The wasp nest you describe sounds like something out of the movie Alien.

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    1. It does sound like something from a horror movie. (shudder) Maybe your toads are just shy and haven’t introduced themselves. Your garden looks like great habitat for them.

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  2. Yet another fascinating post. I have never heard of the Tarantula Hawk before. What an amazing video watching him in action.
    I was stung by a hornet last year and it really can pack a punch; it was agony, I felt sorry for myself all day. And it wasn’ t even an Asian Giant one . I expect Schmidt would consider it a mere pinprick.
    I gather Asian Giant hornets have been in France since arriving in a shipment of Chinese pottery in 2004. They have killed 6 people in France so far, so I expect their sting is quite painful. But I see from the chart that it is not as bad as the Tarantula Hawk.I can’ t quite work that one out. If it actually kills you it must be quite bad.

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    1. Thanks for that info. I look forward to learning more about those hornets. I may be wrong but I think toxicity might not be directly connected to pain. A venom designed to drive away threats through pain is going to hurt like crazy but a venom designed to be deadly can be more numbing than painful. Maybe?

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  3. That squirrel is grinning–like a Cheshire cat, he’s so pleased with his newly found neighborhood restaurant. The lizard is interesting–I don’t think I’ve seen one before and he does blend in beautifully with his perch of choice. I think I’ve seen that Tarantula Hawk before–I had no idea and will keep my distance if I see one again. Your photos are remarkable, but the ones of the Tarantula Hawk, especially so. Thanks for joining in with Wildlife Wednesday.

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    1. Thx for the invite! Only the females can sting and they aren’t aggressive thankfully. When I saw that wasp I got pretty close and watched for a good ten minutes. He was completely unconcerned. It was kind of a puzzle actually. I saw his nonchalance & bright colours and thought: predator; but, he was clearly browsing nectar or pollen. What a treasure. Central Texas has so many amazing critters.

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  4. Great shots as usual. That squirrel does seem to be smiling and I laughed at the idea of each successive food source ripening being like a new restaurant opening for the squirrels. Chez Pecan is doubtlessly eagerly anticipated year to year. (Oh how I hope the lore is wrong – I do NOT happily anticipate another hard winter here.)

    My daughter and I spotted one of those wasps hauling a tarantula across the road while out for a walk a couple of years ago. I’ve barely shaken off the feeling of horror the scene invoked to this day. In the abstract (and minus dragging struggling prey) they are absolutely beautiful!

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    1. I hope the lore is wrong too. I was ready to dismiss the pomegranate prediction but now I am thinking hmmm …
      As for the wasp: yeah, pretty horrible. Nice to have the warning colours.

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