I could probably split this up into two posts, but seeing how I've got a big work project lined up this week I figured I'd go ahead and put everything in this one.
I had a great weekend. Very exciting. Well, very exciting if you like snakes and spiders. Yesterday Larry, Lucas and Alex and I went over to my friend April's farm for a spider hunt featured in the short video at the top of this page.
Readers of my blog may remember this photo tribute I did to my buddy April's farm just after Easter. I just love April, and have more fun with her than I could ever relate here. Like me, April has lots of critters. And in the summer that includes an enviable population of Golden Silk spiders - enviable enough to share with her spider-loving friend. This huge female was by her mom's house and had about five males in the web with her.
OK. So maybe it sounds crazy but I did not take this particular Nephila home, although I dearly wanted to. I picked up major Queen vibes from her and felt like it would be an affront to her arachnid dignity to relocate her and her court. No need to invoke Bad Spider Karma. So the Queen and her suitors stayed put.
But as you can see from the video I collected plenty of others, and Alex caught a few herself! After we got back home we relocated them all around our yard. Some went in the banana grove, some on the kiwi vines out back, some in the tall pines by the barn and some in the Lady Banks rose by the house. Later today Lucas and Alex and I shall go on another spider hunt to see if we can spot their golden webs.
Yes, the spider hunt was exciting. But not quite as exciting as the unplanned snake hunt the day before. Larry was outside at around 10 a.m. on Saturday when our sheepdog Nikki began barking like mad. Nikki is a very reasonable dog and doesn't bark unless something is bark-worthy. When Larry walked over to where she was standing by the building he found she'd hemmed in this 4-1/2 foot canebrake rattlesnake.
Larry caught her with the snake tongs and put her in a cage, where she'll stay until we can take her down to the game lands and release her. The snake was pissed, but you'd be pissed too if you were pregnant and had your rat dinner interrupted by an abduction. The new accommodations didn't thrill her either. But the close quarters gave me a chance to show you all what an aroused rattler looks like before it strikes. If you see one in this position, best back away because that's exactly what you're being advised to do.
I stopped photographing her after she struck at me, not because I was afraid but because I didn't want her to hurt herself striking the glass front of the cage. But in this following photo I did get a cool shot of the venom running down the glass. You might want to click on it to get the best view.
This isn't the biggest snake Larry has caught on the property. A couple of years ago Larry caught this big male out by the dog pen:
I probably need to digress a moment to say that while I have nothing against Meterosexual Males, they are completely useless if you've got giant rattlesnakes in your yard. That kind of dilemma calls for a Real Man. And Larry is about as real as they get. Did I mention he makes his own bullets, too? Well he does. What a guy.
I think Lucas might want to be like him. After coming outside for the obligatory viewing of the snake and a Don't-Touch-These-If-You-See-Them-In-The-Yard speech, Lucas practiced his skills with the snake tongs. That's my boy...
Arachno-Update: Lucas rushed in earlier to inform me that he found the Nephila we released in the kiwi vines and that she'd molted and was being bred. (Don't freak out; such talk is common for farm kids.) I went outside, camera in hand and he was exactly right. Maximize the picture to see the little male on the female. The molt is hanging underneath her in the web. She's doubled in size!
Another Nephila has staked out a place in the barn, right in the corner of Luna's stall. Right now she's hanging out in some old barn spider webbing but she looks busy so I'm optimistic that she'll set up one of her own. She sure won't lack for food; I just hope Minerva won't be too upset about the competition.