Tag Archives: perforate dome (Ventridens demissus)

Little things and the follower

I have been remiss.  Not just recently, but over these past months.  Remiss in what, you ask?  In posting photos, of course!

Mind you, I’ve been busy.  I now live at our family farm in East Texas, thus I pull my weight with farm work each and every day.  Also, I’ve been somewhat myopic in my focus on writing, namely with regards to my first, second and third novels.

But none of this means I’ve disregarded my passion for photography.  Instead, it means I’ve accumulated an unhealthy number of photographs which have yet to be shared.  Then again, that describes my usual state with regards to pictures: I take far more than will ever be seen by anyone but me, and regularly I’m forced to delete vast swaths of digital data to make room for vast swaths of new digital data.

Oh well.

Lest I careen off the tracks of coherence and ramble ad nauseam about how little time I have, let me instead direct this train of thought toward my point.  Assuming I have a point, I mean.

Back in March of this year I ambled about our delightful haven tucked away in the Piney Woods.  With home nestled in the wild, it’s never difficult to find things of interest, and so it was on that marvelously comfortable spring day when…

An eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum) crawling along a bit of dead wood (IMG_0426)

…I first discovered a veritable horde of eastern tent caterpillars (Malacosoma americanum) wandering throughout the farm, from deep in the woods to right outside the door.  Because they produce cyanide, the primary reason for their aposematic coloration, the chickens avoid them and Cooter, our miniature pinscher (or “min pin” for short), must be restrained from eating them.

He eats pretty much anything he can get in his mouth save broccoli, so we really have to manage his consuming ways.  It’s not uncommon for him to eat something and then spend several hours swelling from allergic reactions or vomiting from an upset tummy.  But anyway…

The tent caterpillars obviously had a good year given their abundance and everywhere travels.  And whilst snapping pictures of the little poisonous critter, something leaped over my foot and landed atop a bed of dry leaves.  Taking a closer look revealed…

A northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans) sitting atop dead leaves (IMG_0469)

…a northern cricket frog (Acris crepitans)!  One of the smallest vertebrates in North America, with adults hardly larger than a thumbprint, these amphibians always bring a smile to my face.

Not just because they’re so small, mind you, but also because they’re quite vocal during mating season and because—at least here in Texas—it’s not difficult to find them throughout the year.  Assuming the weather cooperates, of course.

But I had walked to “the bottom” as we call it—where a natural spring and the old pump house hide in woods that stretch down steep hills—because I wanted to check on Mom’s beloved dogwoods.  Drought and fire had done in many of the trees.  Well, drought and fire had done in many trees period, but I had gone to check on the dogwoods, so let’s keep our focus there.

Much to my surprise and Mom’s joy…

Close-up of a bloom on flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) (IMG_0570)

…flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) had indeed survived, although their numbers stand greatly reduced.  And with the tent caterpillars lurking about, well, they’ve become an endangered species at the farm, hence I try to keep an eye on them and initiate action should they need assistance.

With dogwoods confirmed as alive and well, even if in small numbers, I left the bottom and made my way beyond the high pasture to the woods atop the hill, a hill whereupon one can see for miles.  And in the woods…

An unidentified seedling growing through a thick verdant carpet of atrichum moss (a.k.a. lesser smoothcap; Atrichum angustatum) (IMG_0470)

…atrichum moss (a.k.a. lesser smoothcap; Atrichum angustatum) had created thick verdant carpets of green amidst the lifeless detritus from the previous autumn and the just-sprouting greens of a new spring.  Several mosses and moss-like plants had reclaimed the forest floor in patches that promised “soon will” in a world of “once was.”

Each deserved attention and each received close inspection.  And near one of them…

A perforate dome (Ventridens demissus) meandering across a sandy plot of land (IMG_0490)

…wandering across a sandy clearing a perforate dome (Ventridens demissus) carried its abode as it journeyed through woods that made the snail seem microscopic, where trees dwarfed the mollusk, mocked it even with calls of “Hey, tiny!” and “Short people got no reason…”

Undeterred by the utter barbarity of these ligneous cretins, the miniscule creature never thought twice about my in-its-face photography, instead focusing on its trip to who knows where with the intent of taking care of who knows what.

With such a focus on little things that caught my eye, not once did I move through the high tree world without full knowledge of my follower, its song clear and constant, its presence often visible, its curiosity forever contradicting its name.  For never far from me and always within sight was…

A hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) perched on a branch (IMG_0560)

…a hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus), flitting about from branch to branch and tree to tree, calling here and singing there, perpetually gazing at me, watching, monitoring, interested.

Though I’ve seen this species of bird many times, never has one been so adamantly attached to my location, the avian security guard protecting nature’s mall.  Or at least the inquisitive feathered onlooker who can’t stand not seeing the lumbering ape walking the woods.