After about 36 hours of rain, the clouds cleared yesterday evening and the temperature plummeted, so early this morning was “crisp,” as they say when they don’t want to say, “goddamn cold.” It meant I finally had the chance to do some more frost pics, though the winds had carried many of my preferred subjects away. Most of the moisture left by the rains had vanished surprisingly quickly, but this leaf, probably sandwiched with another until being uncovered by squirrels, retained enough moisture for the beads to freeze on the surface. Most other places, the leaves on top were dry, but moist air drifting up from under the piles froze to the edges and created long needles of frost.
I thought to check on my green lynx spiders, who had weathered the chill with aplomb (go ahead, picture a spider with aplomb.) This is the first time I never saw mama – she had been looking so decrepit that I was always surprised to find her still around, up until now – but the younguns ventured out as soon as the sun warmed their little chitins. Leaves blown by the wind into the protective cluster of weblines around the former egg sac get incorporated into the shelter, tacked down (I think entirely by accident) with the draglines left by the spiderlings swarming all over them. Still, it’s not much of a shelter when the temperatures drop this far, and I’m impressed with the spiders’ ability to endure the sub-freezing conditions and bounce right back with a little sunlight. There’s fewer of them now, at least some having dispersed by ballooning, but the other two hatchings that I’d observed have vanished almost entirely, so this one has been curiously stable. I plan to keep an eye on it and see what happens – I’m pretty sure these are the offspring of the hatching I observed last year, so they have to do something for the winter.
I decided to see what other kinds of critters could be found, and started turning over rocks in various places. I was considerably surprised to find my next subject – I figured they’d all be long buried by now:
I didn’t get enough details to positively identify this little sprog, but I think it’s a pine woods treefrog (Hyla femoralis.) Only about 30mm long, and definitely more sluggish than the lynx spiders; until it warmed a little in the sun, the most it managed was some feeble paddling like an infant – notice that it hasn’t even straightened its toes. After a couple of minutes while I was getting pics, it became active enough to hop away, and I nudged it back against the rock so it could crawl underneath – though when I went back out a short while later, seeking identifying characteristics, it had taken itself somewhere else and couldn’t be found.
Under the same rock were a few snail shells – some occupied, some not. I picked up one, perhaps a centimeter across, and noticed another tiny one adhering to it, no more than 2mm in diameter.
Another shell nearby sprouted its occupant, who began meandering around looking to get back under shelter, and its path led it up onto the larger shell and right across the smaller one in a collision of pathetic slowness.
Not surprisingly, the smaller shell simply adhered to the foot of the snail and was carried away, the wind of its passage whistling through the shell mouth – okay, I might be exaggerating a little. The smaller shell revealed itself to be occupied as the inhabitant erupted from within and grasped desperately for purchase. It was truly an exhilarating drama to behold, and I watched with great trepidation to see how events would play out.
After a frantic ride of perhaps 10mm, the smaller one was eventually dislodged and tumbled to a stop, miraculously unharmed, as the larger snail thundered away blithely. I waited for a short while to get some pics of the smaller one emerging and toddling off, if only to ensure that it was not limping (picture that if you will.) If you look closely at this image, you can just see the eyestalks emerging to the far right, but after its traumatic ride the snail was understandably cautious and taking its own sweet time about it, which I will leave you to imagine. The sun was bright today and this isn’t ideal conditions for snails, so after a quick spritz of water, I soon returned them all to the shelter of the rocks whence they came, where I’m sure the stories will be traded this evening over long draughts of whatever it is that snails quaff.
However, I have to close with this image, because the effect of the macro depth-of-field was particularly unique, helped to no small degree by the light reflecting from the rock beneath. If you think I was being overly dramatic above, just look into this eye and tell me that’s the look of a sane snail. Of course I was worried – wouldn’t you be?