Snakeskin

A shed snakeskin appeared when I opened the garage door:

Snakeskin - overview
Snakeskin – overview

The skin sits atop the retaining wall next to the door, on a stone(-like) background with poor contrast: even an empty snake has good camouflage!

The exterior looks like genuine snakeskin:

Snakeskin - exterior
Snakeskin – exterior

I didn’t know the interior has an entirely different pattern:

Snakeskin - interior
Snakeskin – interior

As far as I can tell, the snake was going about its business elsewhere in the yard.

To be fair, there’s some luck involved.

Update: After Mitch nudged me, I found the (somewhat the worse for wear) snakeskin again. The head end was split, much as I described, but the tail end was intact (the snake having pulled out like a finger from a glove) and what I though was the inside of the top was the outside of the bottom, just pushed inward to form a very thin double layer.

Today I Learned … to always look closer!

Monthly Science: Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp Nest Disassembly

The empty Organ Pipe Mud Dauber Wasp nest popped off the wall with relatively little damage:

Organ Pipe Wasp Nest - overview
Organ Pipe Wasp Nest – overview

The open cells on the back side show the wasps don’t waste any effort on putting mud where it’s not needed:

Organ Pipe Wasp Nest - wall side
Organ Pipe Wasp Nest – wall side

Cracking it in half shows the rugged walls between the cell columns:

Organ Pipe Wasp Nest - cross section
Organ Pipe Wasp Nest – cross section

Several cells contained three or four (thoroughly dead!) spiders apiece, evidently the result of un-hatched eggs:

Organ Pipe Wasp Nest - failed egg - spiders
Organ Pipe Wasp Nest – failed egg – spiders

Each successful cell contained a brittle capsule wrapped in a thin cocoon, surrounded by fragments of what used to be spiders, with an exit hole chewed in the side:

Organ Pipe Wasp Nest - capsule detail
Organ Pipe Wasp Nest – capsule detail

I regret not weighing the whole affair, as all that mud represents an astonishing amount of heavy hauling and careful work by one or two little wasps!

Groundhog Activity

The groundhog responsible for trimming the lawn greenery in our area has discovered the long-disused driveway salt barrel:

Groundhog - in salt barrel
Groundhog – in salt barrel

There’s always another appointment on the calendar, though:

Groundhog - trotting on driveway
Groundhog – trotting on driveway

A busy critter with no time to waste!

Monthly Science: Praying Mantis Ootheca

We extracted the Praying Mantis oothecae while clearcutting the decorative grasses bracketing the front door. As far as I can tell, they’re still charged up and ready for use.

The masses resemble rigid foam wrapped around grass stems:

Praying Mantis ootheca - stem side
Praying Mantis ootheca – stem side

It’s a mechanical joint, not an adhesive bond, and the dried stems slide freely through the openings:

Praying Mantis ootheca - bottom
Praying Mantis ootheca – bottom

From one side:

Praying Mantis ootheca - right
Praying Mantis ootheca – right

And the other:

Praying Mantis ootheca - left
Praying Mantis ootheca – left

They’re now tied to stems of the bushes along the front of the house, which (I hope) will resemble what the little ones expect to find when they emerge, whenever they do.

Monthly Image: Albino Squirrel

We’re riding home with groceries when a small white shape scampered across a yard and jumped onto a stump:

Albino Squirrel 2020-03-03 - 680 crop
Albino Squirrel 2020-03-03 – 680 crop

If you’ve ever seen a gray squirrel, you’ll recognize the shape, even in this gritty enlargement:

Albino Squirrel 2020-03-03 - 680 - detail crop
Albino Squirrel 2020-03-03 – 680 – detail crop

Wikipedia says this one is likely a leucistic white squirrel, rather than a true albino squirrel. There is, of course, a website. tracking “white squirrel” sightings.

The relevant coordinates, for science:

41°41'39.9"N 73°52'56.6"W
41.694410, -73.882374

Can’t say if this one had black or pink eyes, but it was pure white!