Saturday, May 21, 2011

Let your little light shine

Sorry folks, we are back on the creepy crawlies today. I know you don't all share, or even understand my facination with the creatures that I find in the garden, but I can't help it. Whenever I see something new, I just have to try to identify it, and if possible, return it to the wild unharmed. That's not always easy as many of my visitors are brought in by a cat. Luna, in particular is a natural hunter who always brings her prey home to play with! If I catch her in time, I rescue whatever she has caught, but I'm not always fast enough.

However, last week I found a creature that I didn't recognise at all. It was early morning while I was feeding the dogs, before the cats had come outside so this one was unharmed. It was mainly dark grey with a pretty pink underbelly and light green under it's tail end. It reminded me a bit of a ladybird larva, but was bigger than that, and I thought it might be a moth larva. Chris knows me well enough to know I would have picked it up to photograph, but he was quick to warn me not to touch, which makes sense really as we do have some not-too-friendly creatures out here. So I dutifully found a stick to move it and it immediately curled up like a wood-louse, showing off its pink underside. With the help of a friend, I found out that this was a glow-worm. I was so surprised. I had no idea that they looked anything like this. My only previous experience of one was on holiday in France. The boys were small, and when we found ourselves driving the length of France for an early morning ferry, we decided to camp out for the night to give us all a break. We found a lovely park with a huge lake so we let the boys have a swim and then we settled down for a sleep. It was cramped in the car and Ben and I had trouble nodding off, so I put a blanket on the grass and laid down with him. I woke in the night to find a bright green light a few feet from my face. It really scared me and I had to wake poor Chris up to see it. We prowled around with a torch but couldn't find anything and the next morning, we realised that it must have been a glow worm! I did a bit of research and apparently the one I found was a female which is flightless, but has the brightest glow. The males fly around overhead to see who makes the best display. I shall now be constantly checking my garden at night for green lights but I am not holding my breath. There are too many street lights and a bright moon, so she won't be glowing very often. She is probably miles away by now anyway.

Today Luna was having fun when I entered the kitchen and found her with what looked like a long slug on the floor. (We don't have slugs out here). On closer inspection I realised it was a type of lizard but with a rounder nose, and smother skin. I also found its long tail lying on the floor a short distance away! It was still very much alive, and as lizards are able to regenerate a lost tail, I thought I would try to rescue it. I took a few photos to help me identify it, and then set it free on the green zone at the back of our house, shutting Luna indoors while it made its getaway. I looked on the web and discovered it was an ocellated skink, which is, apparently, fairly common, though this is the first one I have seen close up. One description on the web said it was '..just four tiny legs away from being a slow worm' and that is very apt. The 'ocelli' refers to the markings which imitate an eye. This one only had the distinctive markings on it's lower half, but I am pretty sure that is what it was. With its tail in place it was quite long, about eight inches I think.

An hour later I found Luna in the kitchen again with another friend! This time it was one of our very common, large grasshoppers. For once, it had no sign of injury so again I took some photos and set it free. But just look at that face, and those amazing eyes! They have tiny claws on each foot and it clung on to me like it was stuck with glue, but I eventually persuaded it on to a bush, from where it hopefully launched itself to a safer garden.

I think nature is wonderful. No artist will ever rival the colours and patterns of our natural world!

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