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March 02, 2003

Barking Spider Safari Kehaar, Ngnat

Barking Spider Safari

Kehaar, Ngnat and I went salamander hunting in the flood plain behind our house yesterday. Or rather, I went salamander hunting. Kehaar went to see what the flood plain looked like when it was flooded, and Ngnat came variously to throw sweet gum balls into puddles, to water random patches of ground with her plastic watering can, or to point out pieces of trash blown into the woods from the construction sites of the previous year.


"That's a piece of Styrofoam siding."

"Salarmanner live there?"

"I'll look honey, but I doubt it."

And there never was. We'd see the occasional centipede, but no salamanders. Centipedes and black widow spiders are the only things that make homes under that stuff. I'll take a trash bag next time we go, and remove some of that habitat, along with the beer cans and tar paper. I should point out that we were not on my land, as if one could call the three-quarters of a acre we live on "land". We were on Army Corp of Engineers property. Technically that's everyone's land, I suppose, which is why it was trashy. Litter is the purest example of the tragedy of the commons.

The salamander I was looking for in particular was the Marbled Salamander, which is fairly common. They start breeding after the first warm rain of the year, which fell a week or so ago. We didn't find any, despite the fact that when I'm not looking for them, they're all over the place. I know there's a least a pair of them under the house. I spotted them under the plastic containers I store my seine nets in when I was putting the Christmas tree stand back up for the year. I didn't bother to tell the Sainted Wife, who would be less than thrilled with the idea of fauna breeding underneath the living room.

We did see a Blue Heron, which Ngnat spotted, and heard our resident pair of Barred Owls call a couple of times. The sound is pretty spooky unless you know what's making it. They tend to go off at any time of day, though evening is their most active period. Both of those species are fish and frog eaters, so from my point of view our yard backs up to something that's closer to a swamp than a flood plain. There's standing water on it for three-quarters of the year as it is, and we had been in a two-year drought up until September.

Not that I care. Having a swamp in the back yard is a plus, as far as I'm concerned. That way I don't have to drive anywhere to go bother the fauna. I can do it within sight of the house.

Though, as I said above, not that I managed to do much of that yesterday. Toddlers don't tend to cover a lot of ground, and they are easily distracted by any new thing, and everything is new at that age. So, no salamanders for me, but Ngnat saw her first piles of actual rabbit hraka, which she studiously watered with her green plastic watering can.

"Wet poopie," she said, with all the satisfaction of a job well done.

She also saw deer tracks, and raccoon tracks, and touched moss, and stuck pine twigs into the muddy stump of an overturned tree until it looked like Pinhead's pincushion. All were also watered, after which she demanded a refill from the emergency backup watering can Kehaar carried for just that purpose. Watering things has been a theme of her's for a while now, so we'd come prepared. She also learned the joys of walking on the trunks of downed trees, after watching Kehaar nearly lose his balance and fall into a puddle while traversing a particularly small and shaky pine log.

"He fall in water by himself!" she predicted, with far more joy in the anticipation of that prospect that I would've expected. My genes coming through again, I suppose.

Kehaar, whose digestive system was inadequately processing the previous night's beer, was also the impetus for her first animal call, as he periodically drowned out the background noises of the swamp with some of his own. After one particularly resounding....event, Ngnat stopped and looked around, seeking the source of the disturbance.

"What was that?"

"That's Uncle Kehaar's barking spider call, honey."


"He's calling animals, honey."

"Oh." She considered this for a moment, then decided she could help. "Hellloooooooo! Animasss! Where are you?"

That, along with a final emptying of the watering can, was the end of the safari. Ngnat climbed up the eight-foot bank that separated our yard from the far more interesting area beneath it, and looked down at us, considering.

"We go play balls now."

And so we did.

Posted by Bigwig at March 2, 2003 02:27 PM | TrackBack
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