Over the last week we have had some neat encounters with nature right in our own yard. You'll think we live in the Amazon, not Ohio, when you see these creatures! Hope none of you are too squeamish, as neither of the visitors we had are exactly cuddly...
First is a common but remarkable resident in many North American backyards: Argiope aurantia, a type of orb spider known as the "Garden" or "banana" spider.
Isn't she spectacular? It's hard to appreciate how big she is, but it is common for female spiders to as large as 28mm. The males are much smaller (5-9 mm), and are often eaten by the female after they mate with her (yikes!).
Orb spider webs are often over 2 feet in diameter. That zig-zag line down the middle is called a "stabilimentum", and is always present. It is thought that it somehow broadcasts the presence of an otherwise hard-to-see web to birds, so they don't crash through and make the poor spider rebuild the whole thing. I don't like spiders much, but can certainly appreciate the beauty this big gal, especially since she is outside!
Just the day before that I had another visitor, this time on my front porch. You probably won't believe this, but it literally knocked on my front door! I heard creepy scratching sounds coming from the porch, so tentatively peeked out the front widow to see what it was. Imagine my surprise when I realized what it was:
That's a Northern snapping turtle! He was HUGE! I don't have the slightest idea what he was doing on my porch (he had to crawl up a pretty big step to get there), but he was standing on his hind legs and trying to climb up my front door when I first saw him. My first thought was to run & get the camera to get some pictures of this strange guest.
Look at the size of those claws! I wasn't about to mess with him! So my second thought was, how can I get him outta there?? I didn't want to hurt him, but I wasn't in the mood to lose any fingers either, and he wasn't going anywhere on his own. I tried to call animal control, but they weren't in (it figures). So I did the only other thing I could think of to get rid of a 30-lb snapping turtle - I called the police!
I can only imagine what dispatch was thinking when a woman calls and says "I have a huge snapping turtle on my front porch" - yeah, right. But I can tell you the when the first officer to arrive came striding around the corner with her gloves already on and saw how big the turtle actually was, she immediately called for backup!! Since I live in a township & the police department is small, the second officer to arrive was actually the SWAT team!! The officers luckily thought the whole scenario was fun, and seemed to enjoy the challenge of removing the turtle, as compared to responding to the typical call of quarreling neighbors!
A snapper might not be fast on his feet when on dry land, but his head could shoot out a few feet in the blink of an eye, and supposedly has the second strongest bite of all animals (only alligators can generate as more pressure per square inch)! He REALLY didn't appreciate that we were trying to help him - he was vicious! But with the help of some long-handled tools and a really big bucket, he was successfully removed from my porch and safely deposited in a nearby pond. I was relieved to have him relocated sucessfully, and just glad the dogs didn't find him before I did!
Thankfully we haven't heard from the turtle since. What a great story!
I still have one more bit of nature to share with you today. Remember the trip we took out west earlier this summer (see the Flat Brutus posts)? This was one of the souvenirs we brought home:
I followed the directions, planted the seeds & waited. After 20 days in the fridge, I moved the container to the windowsill as instructed. Sometime over the weekend while we were away on our "Earlventure" (thanks to Sam of Margeblog for coining that term - LOVE it), a little miracle of nature occurred: I am now the proud caretaker of not one, but TWO giant sequoia seedlings!! I kept Brutus away from the other wildlife (for his own good!), but let him check out the baby trees:
Can you believe that those fragile little wisps have the potential to grow to be the largest living thing on the planet??
They do grow quickly (up to 3 feet a year), but I don't think we'll be decorating the sequoias for Christmas any time soon! Hope my withered brown thumb can be a little greener than usual for this project! Wish me luck!