A “Wild Kingdom” kind of day

When I was a kid, one of my favorite shows was Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with naturalist Marlin Perkins. As a suburban but nature-loving kid, I was fascinated by the crew’s adventures doing what, in retrospect, amounted to going out and aggressively harassing wild animals in exotic places. Look, for example, at most of these “classic” clips from the original show.

While I wasn’t exactly wrestling anacondas into submission at my place today, I did encounter a rather odd selection of wildlife for one day. First was a Northwest Ringneck snake, whose belly coloration is the same as the survey paint I was using. I posted the photo with the spraycan on Facebook, claiming that I’d painted the snake. I was hoping to get some outraged comments, but I’ve got too many wildlife-geek friends and they busted me right away.

(most likely) Northwest Ringneck snake Diadophis punctatus occidentalis

Tanya with snake.

Look, everyone, I spraypainted a snake!

Later on, I found this critter and was unsure if it was a rattle snake or gopher snake. (Update, my Facebook friends seem to concur that it’s a gopher snake.) The latter uses Batesian mimicry to get the protective benefits of the rattlesnake’s venom without having to go to the trouble of evolving fangs and venom itself. It does so by looking like a rattle snake, acting like one by “rattling” its tail in the dry grass or leaves, flaring out its “cheeks” to imitate the head shape of a rattler and assuming a coiled “striking” posture. Most predators would, like me, assume it was a rattler and leave it alone.

I only thought to pester it because it was right near the house and I was worried that my reptile-eating cat might mess with it and get bit. After photographing it, I tried to catch it in a bucket and relocate it, but it slithered into weeds and got away. Since my Facebook friends seem unanimous that it’s a (harmless) gopher snake, I’m glad it’s still around.

Gopher snake or rattle snake?

Snake not happy about my boot in its face. Maybe I should have changed my socks.

Later today, I noticed that all the plants near my gate were covered with these little beetles. Thousands of them. A few hours later, they were gone. Anyone know what they are or what they were all doing?

Thousands of beetles were on every plant near my gate for a short while this afternoon.

Beetles on bamboo.

I also saw a couple Western pond turtles in my pond today, which is odd since it is a lined pond with not much living in it. I don’t know pond management very well, and this summer the pH got way out of whack, currently reading a very alkaline 8.9. Newts are the only critters in there, so I’m assuming the turtles are going after those. A few weeks ago, there was an egret at the pond’s edge, snatching newts.

Egret in my pond.

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