Friday, May 25, 2007

Vertebrate Co-Inhabitants

On the last post, I shared a few invertebrate compatriots from our property. This time I thought I'd share photos of a few vertebrates that I've met this month (and that allowed me to photograph them).

Back on May 2nd, we'd just had our large, deep window well covered with a fancy "hat" when Prairiewolf noticed a toad in the newly sealed off area. So I climbed out through the window into the well to perform a rescue. When I got in there, I actually found 4 very large, very healthy specimens that I proceeded to liberate, getting to try out our new escape hatch in the process. By the time that I got back up to the outside, only 2 of the toads had stuck around, but I managed to get fairly good photos of both of them. This is the most photogenic of the two, mainly because of the setting. (The other was on gravel, next to our not-very-exciting-or-colorful foundation.)

The next day, I noticed our German shepherd and English setter puppy interestedly nosing something in the grass. When I went to investigate, I found this turtle. I don't remember seeing this species before, and since I am still without my guidebooks, I'm simply posting the picture without further identification. The turtle did reek, which makes me wonder whether it is a stinkpot. Incidentally, I immediately rescued it from the attentions of the dogs. It did the normal turtle thing of waiting for a bit in its shell, then hightailing it for wherever it had been heading originally. Once it got going, it actually moved fairly rapidly.

About a week later, I was able to get a couple shots of the fox squirrels that have finally learned about the bird seed smorgasbord in our courtyard. They'd visited from the swale a few times before, but now they are regular customers...which I have mixed emotions about. Fox squirrels are so much more destructive than gray squirrels around homes that I'm a little nervous about luring them up this close to the house.

Finally, I have evidence of a big bird in the Beyond, but I'm not sure what the bird is. The tracks are almost as long as our 110 lb. German shepherd's paws are broad, but there is no sign of a 4th toe. Does that make them likely to be turkey or great blue heron? Or maybe great egret? Any one of them would be a new yard bird.

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