Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Watch Out!

I could have called this entry "take care" or "watch your step" or "look!". What I call it doesn't matter. The big idea is really about mindfulness. I was out at Paynes Prairie today trying to FINALLY see the Groove-billed Ani that everyone keeps talking about. (I've been looking for it for weeks now and hadn't seen it). So I'm walking along the trail, watching the tops of the shrubbery, and I happened to look down just in time to avoid stepping in some fresh coyote scat. While I stood and felt thankful for clean shoes, a Red Spotted Purple butterfly stopped by and fed on the scat for a moment, then flew off, leaving the poop to me and the dung beetles.

Red-Spotted Purple and Scat (It's blurry because I was surprised!)
A bit later I got talking with a fellow birder and we walked together in search of the elusive Ani. This guy was traveling all the way from Oregon and REALLY wanted to see the famous bird. We talked and searched as we walked along the grassy path. I happened to look down, and to my shock, I was inches from stepping on this Cottonmouth. I stepped away and warned my fellow birder and we both took a few minutes to marvel at the beautiful snake, at the same time feeling thankful that I had looked down when I did.

Cottonmouth (Don't worry, I was 6 feet away when I took this)
A little after that, I headed to a raised walkway and came inches again from stepping on a Polyphemus Moth that was resting on the boards. I took lots of photos and picked the poor thing up and moved it out of traffic. It seemed old and tired. I imagine it was dying. But I'd hate to have stepped on it.

Moving the Polyphemus Moth
About that time I decided that all of these near misses were a sign that I was not paying attention. From that point on I determined that as I looked for birds, I also needed to watch where I walked. So, I was focused on my feet as I came around the bend and found this alligator crossing the path.

Gator on the Move
Looking down wasn't enough. I needed to be tuned in all around. When I go out photographing with an agenda, I get tunnel vision. But I always realize that it's so much better to just open yourself to the infinite possibilities of what is out there. Slow down, breathe, use all your senses. You'll see a lot more.

I continued on and if I hadn't been watching all around, I would have stepped on this pretty ant hill.

I would have missed this beetle.

Beetle Escaping into the Grass
And I could have squashed this Wooly Bear Caterpillar.

Watch Out for Wooly Bears!
If I'd been in a hurry, I would have walked right by this Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum) and the Whirlabout Skipper blissfully nectaring on it.


On the return trip, I got careless and started to hurry again, narrowly avoiding stepping on this moth on the ground. A reminder. Slow down. Look around.

Lucky Moth
I saw this caterpillar on the railing.

And this Tussock Moth Caterpillar on the railing further down the way.

Doesn't it Look Like it Has Antlers?
The Polyphemus Moth was still there, but sitting safely in the leaves away from the path.

Blending In With the Leaves
This Broad Headed Skink was peeking out from under the composting toilet.

There Must Be Good Bugs in There
Oh, and by the way, I did see that sneaky Ani.

Groove-billed Ani (Finally!)


  1. That tussock moth caterpillar looks like something out of Labyrinth! What a great day for animal watching.

    1. Ha! You're so right. This one had a lot of personality. I've seen funny caterpillar pictures with smiling mouths photoshopped on. This one would be a good candidate! Thanks for reading!