Tiny

Like a galleon being boarded by pirates, the body of a ladybug is rocked violently by the movements of the many fire ants dismantling it. One ant clambered up a mast-like wing; while ants on each side tilted the round hull of the little beetle from side to side, until naught was left.

Just one of a million tiny dramas being played out at any moment in the Arkansas Ouachitas.

11-12-Lady Bug-Ants 3.jpg

Crushed

Just a week ago, one of my colleagues shared that she was nearly fully recovered after being bitten by a brown recluse spider. While she felt barely a pinprick, within hours she was feeling much larger effects: sweating and dizziness. Now this lady is tough as nails, but she spent four weeks recovering.

Here in the Ouachita Mountains, all sorts of venomous creatures are commonplace whether they’re rattlers or scorpions or spiders — brown recluse and black widows included.

Having come in from my Sunday photo safari, I took off the leggings I wore as a guard against mosquito and chigger bites. Needless, to say, I was stunned to find the crumpled body of a spider INSIDE one of the legs.

Its thorax had been crushed and its silk glands and other innards were firmly attached to the fabric. Its mouth end, palps extended, were facing toward my leg. My husband and I checked for bites and needless to say, we are keeping a close eye out for any symptoms.

We are just hoping this will be one of the majority of bites classed as “medically insignificant.”

(UPDATE: No ill effects!)

9-4-2016 Legging Spider 6.jpg

What a healthy, living recluse looks like. Taken yesterday on the front porch.

9-4-2016 Brown Recluse.jpg

Moby peck

The big raucous pileated woodpeckers in our corner of the Ouachita Mountains have been the Moby Dick to my Ahab-ic photographic ambitions. For years, I’ve tried to capture a decent photo, but they’ve proven elusive, skittish and pretty good at hiding for something so large and loudly colored. But finally, FINALLY, one very vocal female lit in a tree this morning, not far from our living room window. And there she is.
8-7-2016-Pileated-Woodpecker-Web.jpg

Ghost leaf

Arkansas summer mornings¬†give rise to interesting conditions, thanks to the high humidity and the difference in temperature between inside and outside. Condensation on the windows can be especially telling — as if Nature was deploying her own forensic technique to seek the whereabouts of creatures and things. On this July morning, this ghostly outline appeared on the glass — retracing the landing spot of some storm tossed leaf.

7-17-2016 Leaf Impression Window

Season’s first ripe blackberry

The wild blackberries here on the mountain are a two-edged sword. The berries are delicious (especially when cooked into a cobbler with a lemon cornmeal crust), but the harvest is a thorny affair that often results in ripped sleeves, pierced digits and purple fingertips. Spotted the first few ripe ones yesterday.

(Drops head sheepishly) Yes. I ate them.

6-11-16 First Blackberry