Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall: From the Woods to the Mailbox

We live on the edge of a 120-acre forest of western hemlock, western cedar, and Douglas fir with bigleaf maple and red alder nearing the end of their lifespan.  In another 700 feet as the crow flies is the shore of Puget Sound.  And so we are blessed with a variety of wild plants and animals from rain forest to suburban garden to the shoreline of an inland sea.

Even among the giant trees I'm never at a loss of amazement at the small things.  Walking out to the mailbox I notice a lifeless garter snake on the driveway that was run over by any one of us three neighbors who share this driveway.  I'm not a snake expert but guessing he's a Northwestern Garter Snake (Thamnophis ordinoides), one of several species and subspecies of garter snakes native here.  Its lifeless opaque eyes no longer glisten as transparent windows to his snake spirit.
As I was photographing the snake, along came a beetle, a snail-killer carabid (Scaphinotus angusticollis), attracted no doubt by the scent of the dead snake.  These beetles are pretty common around here and are the good guys that eat snails and slugs.  The beetle's forebody is uniquely shaped to get inside a snail's shell.  Note that the beetle harbors a group of mites seen as the orangish little creatures on the beetle's thorax.
Another common animal is the seldom seen shrew-mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii).  They forage for worms and other terrestrial invertebrates in the shallow soil and leaf letter.  I found this one dead at the edge of the forest.
Fall is also mushroom time, these found growing in our back lawn area, perhaps Mycena sp.
There weren't as may cross spiders this fall as last year, maybe our early November last year freeze reduced their numbers.  It was a cold La Nina last year and this year looks to be a similar La Nina.  We'll see.

No comments:

Post a Comment