Sunday, January 28, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Fishing Spider

The Fishing Spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus.

A large spider. Counting the legs they can be up to four inches in size, with females larger than males. They get their common name as this genus tends to live near and hunt on water, preying upon small fish and aquatic invertebrates.

But this particular species is the least aquatic of the genus, and is found in woodlands often far from water.

Similar to and often confused with the slightly larger wolf spiders, the two groups can be differentiated by their eye patterns. Assuming you get close enough to look them in the eyes.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Wait, What?

So, how exactly ...

... does one legally get on this road?

Monday, January 22, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Virginia Opossum

The Virginia Opossum, one of Patty's favorite critters. And no stranger to this blog.

North America's only marsupial.

They are regular visitors to our yard, and to the tree outside our living room. We've had as many as three in the tree at any one time.

They come for the peanut butter, and other food, we put out. And like to sit on the platform feeder I setup between the tree trunks of this Sweetgum tree. As this one is doing. They like to clean up and then relax after eating. This one is yawning and no doubt hoping to settle in for a spell after finishing off the peanut butter.

Although not before the Southern Flying Squirrels got their share.

And then a second Oppie came.

And not only was it disappointed when it found nothing at the platform feeders.

The first one was none to happy to have company!

Not yawning this time!

The newcomer hastily made its retreat.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Atomic Flies

There is something strange going on down in Panama ...

Take a good look at the sign in the picture. Click to bigafy if you need to. What is the USDA up to? And what good can come from making Atomic Flies?

Would you turn into 'Flyman' if you got bitten by one? And would Flyman and Spiderman be enemies?

We saw this sign pretty much everyday we were down there. But only in the Darien Provence. It was crazy how open they were about this. I mean, would you want the world to know you were breeding atomic flies? I think not!

But we didn't see any giant flies with glowing red eyes. Thank god. I mean, the little non-atomic flies are bad enough.

On the other hand, we saw several species of giant spiders, like this one, big as your hand:

Sericopelma rubronitens, the Panama Red Rump Tarantula (black rump morph apparently).

I guess something must be eating those giant flies.


The red-eyed fly is the New World Screwworm. A particularly nasty little bugger. It has been mostly eradicated in the United States since 1966. Mexico and the Central American countries of  Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua have been fly free since 1991. And the firewall is in Panama.

Today the USDA and partners maintain a permanent sterile fly barrier at the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia to prevent the return of this pest.

And how do they create this sterile fly barrier? By irradiating the male flies, that's how.

Thus the atomic fly logo.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer.

Or as Patty likes to call them, "Damn Deer"!

As we were watching the NFL playoffs last weekend, Patty remarked that one of our cats was intensely focusing on something outside. We have large sliding glass doors in our living room, which look out over our gardens and bird feeders. Usually, the critters the cats notice are small ones, like voles, squirrels, bunnies, and chipmunks, all previous yard critters of the week.

This is the view out our window that evening.

It took us a moment to realize that it was a big critter this time. And at the same time we were noticing it, it was noticing us. All I managed was a couple of shots with my iPhone. And then it was gone. But not for good. It, or others like it, have made additional appearances, as evidenced by tracks in the snow, objects moving in the woods, and late night sightings in the yard.


Deer are all too common throughout New Jersey, as a lack of predators has led to a population explosion, and this is problematic. Crop and garden damage (Patty's main beef with them), vehicle impacts, disease harboring, and forest understory destruction are all serious deer related problems.

Garden plant damage is the reason that White-tailed Deer are one of the few critters not welcome in our yard. Luckily, an chance overheard conversation at the Philadelphia Flower Show led to the purchase of a product called the Wireless Deer Fence, which has proven to be very effective at keeping deer damage to a minimum.

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

The Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

I've seen this species before, in the yard even.

But this is the first time I recall seeing the yellow belly.

I guess it helped that this time the bird was about three meters* from my vantage point in our living room.

It was Patty who spotted him, while lying on the couch reading. It was a snow day and school was closed (lucky her!). Me, I was working form home. So when she sent the text that the bird was here I was able to grab the camera (the marvels of modern communication!).

Just in time to see the bird scamper up the tree and out of sight.

Fortunately it came back.

Interestingly, it was pecking away at the Virginia Creeper vines.

We don't know what was so alluring about the vines. As the temperatures had been well below freezing for some time, I doubt there was much sap flowing through them.

Nor do we know where the red berry came from!

The bird spent much of the day on this tree. And Patty and I both enjoyed watching.

But like the other Sapsuckers which have visited the yard, it was a one day wonder.

You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.


* About 10 feet for you metrically challenged folks out there.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Yard Critter of the Week - Wood Cockroach

The Pennsylvania Wood Cockroach.

This fellow was found in one of our wood piles, during our Pre-Winter Solstice Music Jam with Druid Ashes for Everyone* bonfire event several weeks ago.

Bernie found it while getting more fuel for the fire and our friend Max captured it. Max travels to these parties with two coolers, one with beer and one with his insect collecting equipment. Max graciously entrusted me with the critter, which, after spending some time in the fridge, had its portrait taken.


Having existed on Earth for at least 300 million years, cockroaches are among the most common of insects. And this particular species is common in the woodlands of the eastern, southern, and midwestern states.

And as we live in a woodland in an eastern state, it is no surprise we found one. Just a matter of time.

A member of nature's cleanup crew, they feed on decaying organic matter. And we have plenty of that about the property. So they can cleanup all they want.


You can find all of the Yard Critter posts listed here.


* No druids were harmed during the event. Pretty much no-one was harmed, although a couple of people did fall down. Completely unrelated to Russell's excellent barely wine ...