Thursday, March 19, 2009

March 19th, 2009

There's been some interesting 'critter' news around here, lately.

The other morning, when George (the gardener) was trimming the hedges around the pool yard, he discovered a small bee's nest built within the branches. Considering the close proximity it was to where the kids play in the pool, George felt it was best to exterminate his discovery. After getting all the kids inside and closing the windows, he started to eye up the nest more closely. Rich went out to see if he could help... because what's better than watching one guy get stung when you can watch two... ;o)

They discussed various approaches they could take, finally settling on the most exciting... I mean effective method of elimination... fire. They fashioned a torch by using a broom stick and newspaper doused in alcohol, and with a quick touch of a lit match, the torch was set. Rich stood by with a water hose in the event the entire hedge caught fire while George carefully weaved the flaming stick through the hedge branches until reaching the bee's nest. Within a few moments, the nest was aflame. We were expecting a swarm of angry bee's to start darting around at any second, but oddly, there were really only a few. How anticlimactic for those of us watching from the safe side of the window. Rich used a bit of water to ensure the fire was out, and George reached in to pull out what was left of the nest. It was an interesting honeycomb type of nest, with little spaces where baby bee's were waiting to hatch. I suppose a nature lesson is better than a trip to ER for excessive bee stings.

We have found several geckos around the house for which we've been grateful as they eat mosquito's which have also been unusually abundant here lately. They are fairly fast critters that can be difficult to catch, despite the kids best efforts. However, Michael was successful the other day, but not without it's costs. As I was closing a window for the night, something dropped down from the window sill and landed on my hand. Not one to let unexpected critters linger long on my body, I quickly shook my hand. Whatever had landed on my hand then fell to my foot, which reacted in kind, sending the unidentified critter across the floor. When it landed, we all moved in for a closer look. It was a gecko (sorry, Buddy!), who seemed no worse for wear, if not a bit stunned, after doubling as a hacky-sack. Michael decided that while the gecko was getting his marbles set straight again, this was his big chance to finally catch one. He leapt forward to cup it in his hands, but it darted away, and then stopped a few feet away. Not wanting to use the same failed approach twice, this time Michael thought it would be good if he could just pin the gecko down by the tail. He leapt forward again, and this time successfully pinned the tail down with his fingers. Michael's moment of victory evaporated quickly as the gecko decided it would be better to part with his tail than his life, and tore away (literally) from the catch. Michael was quick enough to stop the escape and cupped the gecko with his hand (apparently having their tails ripped off can slow them down a bit), but all eyes were on the abandoned tail still twitching and writhing around on the tile floor. The kids now know a bit more about regeneration, but we're still not sure how a gecko tail can move like that when there's no gecko attached to it any longer.

Later than night, I was tucking the younger kids into bed. There is a large bean bag chair in their bedroom which seemed a bit in the way that night, so I picked it up to move it more tightly into the corner. As I adjusted it, I noticed a lot of movement on the bottom of the bag. It caught my eye enough to warrant a closer look. As I drew closer to the action, I realized I had stumbled upon a large ant colony that had very recently sought cover in the bedroom. With their location being disturbed, they scrambled every which way, many of them grabbing their pupae's. In horror, I threw open the window and chucked the bean bag chair outside. I yelled for Rich and together we wiped up as many ants as we could find. Ryan went outside to knock as many ants off the bean bag as he could, and we then found a new home for the item in the garage. We all felt a bit wriggly after that find.

On some of our comings and goings on our street, we've seen some interesting critter finds. We watched a horse get branded a few days ago. The man had a blow torch going nearby, and would heat up the brand until it was bright red hot, and then slap the horse a bit in the area he was to brand, followed closely by the hot brand itself. The horse flinched a bit for the first one, but upon subsequent ones (they apparently need to brand the same spot a few times to get it deep enough...), he seemed to be very stoic about it all. After watching a few “sizzles”, we started to feel a bit nauseous so we decided to move on and continue our walk home. Before we got too far, the horse was set free in a pasture near where we were walking. He ran all around but got close enough we could see his new tattoo. It looked like the branders had poured water over the area, as it was wet looking now, and the horse seemed understandably a bit unsettled. We all decided if we were horses, we'd prefer an ear tag over being branded.

Another time, Rich and I were walking down our road at sunset. Our trusty canine companion, Lucy, had come along to escort us safely. She is not a small dog, but not very big, either... maybe weighing in at around 30 lbs. As we made our way along the road, from off to the side, an owl screeched loudly at us all and then made a swooping dive at Lucy. Lucy fended the owl off, and set about to continue her trot, when for a second time, there was another loud screech followed by a taloned dive. By this time I was fearful we were under attack. I didn't think Lucy could be picked up by these fairly small owls, but I also wasn't 100% sure she couldn't. The owls kept a close eye on us for a while, but we kept waving our arms and making enough noise that I think they decided to move on to another prey. We were glad it was Lucy who came along with us and not To-to, as To-to is a whopping 10 lbs. soaking wet... perfect owl bait material.

That's most of the critter news for now.


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