Sunday, August 31, 2014

Serendipity...Or Lives That Want To Be Shared?

Okay, this is a warning.  I am going to sound a little "Woo-woo" in this post.  I can't help that because sometimes that's just how I am.

So, with the appropriate warning out of the way, I have to confess that sometimes it seems as if certain animals consent to show themselves to me so that I can photograph them.  How else to explain the chance to photograph the fly attacking the hornworm last week? 

Or the funnel spider that sat at the entrance to its hole and just looked at me one morning last summer?   That's very unusual behavior for a funnel spider.

How about last week, when the scissor grinder cicada (Tibicen pruinosus) flew to the stem of a sunflower, about 5 feet from where I was weeding in the vegetable garden, and started to loudly sing away, making sure I had the chance to put his song and his appearance together. 

He even sat there singing while I stood up and photographed him!

Then there was the hanging thief robber fly (Diogmites sp.) that landed right in front of me to munch away on her wasp victim, while she dangled nonchalently from a single foot hanging onto the dry tip of an aster leaf.

Look how gently she seems to be cradling her prey.

I shouldn't forget the beautiful (and BIG) garter snake that posed prettily on the back path earlier this summer, obviously replete from a satisfying meal of (probably) cotton rat or baby rabbit. 

I walk the paths with 2 large German shepherds and I make little or no attempt to be quiet or to keep the dogs on heel.  That snake HAD to know we were coming!

Don't get me wrong - I am definitely not complaining.  I absolutely love getting glimpses into the lives of the animals that share our "little bit of Earth" with us.  It's a privilege and an honor to share their stories with a wider audience, too.

I'll leave you with one last animal story I was privileged to witness recently and with the related thought that it sparked in me.

I saw this David and Goliath story in my front garden just last week.  How in the world did that little crab spider manage to catch - and especially hold onto - that huge swallowtail butterfly?  The butterfly was obviously old - it's tattered wings hint of multiple adventures survived.  Was the butterfly just too old to have the energy to get away this time?  Or did it, somehow, know that its time was done and "consent" to become a meal for the little spider, passing along its energy to help the wheel of life spin just a little bit further around?

Do animals "consent" to be eaten and to become part of the food chain?  I've read that the Native Americans always used to say thanks to the animals they hunted for giving their lives to them for sustenance.  Was that a willing choice on the part of the animals?  Or was that simply an acknowledgement, on the part of the Native Americans, that they were taking the lives of other animals to support their own?

Of course I have no answers to my questions and I know that I'm being fanciful, especially in imagining the animals' desire to have their stories shared on the internet, but thanks for reading this and letting me indulge in whimsy from time to time.  I hope you'll always share the chance encounters you have with wildlife in your gardens - and the stories behind those encounters, too!


troutbirder said...

It takes an especially attentive person to notice these kind of stories. And knowledgeable too. I'm slowly trying to be like that. Slow down and smell the roses is what I tell the Point A to Point B hurry up and get there people...:)

Gardener on Sherlock Street said...

Woo-woo or whatever, it's cool.
Such good timing for you to post about the hanging thief robber fly again. This morning, my hubby pointed one out to me in the pumpkin patch. He was concerned that it didn't look well hanging there. We didn't know what it was. After we looked it over for a bit, it flew off. Now we know what we saw. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

If I can extrapolate from my experience, I think that if we put ourselves out there in nature often enough we become witnesses to many things. Like you, I've had interesting insects land right in front of me (and even on me) from time to time. On rare occasions I've been looking through my camera's viewfinder at a spot when something has landed in that very spot. It's fun to speculate about the purposefulness of such occurrences, but I'm inclined to think there isn't any.

Gaia Gardener: said...

GonSS, I love serendipitous timing like that! Last year was the first year I'd ever seen a hanging thief, so you're not far behind me. Robber flies, in general, are great predators and wonderful to have in the garden.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Troutbirder and Steve (or do you prefer Steven?),

Thanks so much for stopping by!

I know very well, logically, that what I'm privileged to see is all just a matter of being outside long enough (and slowing down enough while I'm out there) to notice what's going on around me.

The slowing down part is crucial. Too often nowadays, IF we get outside at all, we're doing it for "exercise", which means we need to hustle and get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible. In my experience, you don't notice much when you hustle.

So, when I do my walkabouts, I stroll and I keep my eyes constantly surveying what's around me. Weeding is actually very productive for observation, at least it is if I keep my camera at hand! You can't get much slower than sitting in one place and pulling weeds for minutes to hours on end.

Still, after 8 years of strolling around the same 10 acres in the same way, I am constantly seeing new interactions: animals that, in my experience, sense me coming yards away but, for some reason, choose to let me get a few feet away and photograph them, for example. During different years, it's different animals, too. One year I was able to photograph a large number and variety of dragonflies, but I've been unable to get close to many at all since then. Another year it was box turtles. I must have seen at least a dozen one summer, about 2 or 3 years ago. This year I've been able to photograph 2 so far.

So logic tells me that what I see is just luck and simply being outside enough for it to happen, but my heart tells me it's a little bit more than that.

Casa Mariposa said...

You are so good at identifying the insects in your garden. I'm not sure any animal consents to being eaten. I think they just realize they've been overpowered or outmatched. Excellent photos!

Gaia Gardener: said...

Tammy, thanks for the kind words. I'm going to see if I can find the supplies at Lowe's and get busy on MY mosaics!

Rose said...

Fantastic photos! The robber fly barely hanging on while devouring his prey is just amazing.

Gaia Gardener: said...

I couldn't believe it when I saw it, Rose! So much weight hanging from that single foot....

The Amateur Ecologist said...

What an interesting and informative blog! Just discovered it through your comment on the Pollinators' Unbeetle post (love these surprise discoveries). Added your site to my Netvibes feed and look forward to reading more.

Paula @ Blooms 'n' Spades said...

Great photos! I too photographed a crab spider who had captured a butterfly. I think maybe they are just very good at waiting quietly for their prey to come along.

Unknown said...

They say that luck favors the prepared. Spending time outdoors is the preparedness allowing you the good fortune to witness these marvels. I feel the same way even when I just see a pose and not a special behavior. It is a privilege to interact on some level with other beings. We as a species have done little to deserve their trust yet occasionally we are graced by them.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thanks for stopping by, A.E. I hope to have you visit in the future! (And thank you very much for your kind comments.)

Gaia Gardener: said...

Steve, Your brief statements captured my feelings exactly. It IS a privilege to be trusted enough by other beings that we can interact with them, however briefly.

Gaia Gardener: said...

Thank you, Paula. Thanks for stopping by. Yes, the little crab spiders are certainly patient...but this one must have been pretty muscular, too!

Loret said...

Ahhh, the fauna is showing it's narcissistic side, vogueing for the papparazzi of the entomology set!

When you are one with nature, nature accepts you without fear... allowing you a peak into their amazing world. Great Stuff Cynthia!

Loret said...

Ahhh, the fauna is showing it's narcissistic side, vogueing for the papparazzi of the entomology set!

When you are one with nature, nature accepts you without fear... allowing you a peak into their amazing world. Great Stuff Cynthia!