Category: texas nature

Great blog. Can I get a gift too?






j/k thnx ilu2 <3

July 9, 2019


A good day for the back yard! Very cute jumping spider on my window

Phidippus arizonensis, a plump lady from November 2016

Reposted July 7, 2019


I love this special anole living her best life in my yard. She is beautiful. This is the second time I’ve seen her, or one who looks like her.

The last anole with fragmented leucisticism (I just made that term up, there’s probably a real name for this phenomenon in lizards) looked like she was wearing sunglasses. Maybe this is her! I have too many photos to go back and check, and my iNat backlog is almost a year long now (save me).

July 3, 2019

Lol duh thanks @snowysauropteryx, I looked closer and that’s exactly what she’s doing. It’s just hot and dry, and she’s being dark (they change colors!), so the white shed skin has a high contrast.

Some more shedding babes I’ve found in my yard (seriously, I should change my home’s name from Spider Haven to Anole Haven, these guys snooze all over and I can practically pick them up):

Tiny baby snoozing!

He didn’t like me trying to “help” him. So tempting!

Starting to peel on his head!

Anyways, ignore me, I’m an excited idiot and I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

June 3, 2019

EDIT She’s just shedding ignore me. Original post intact for posterity and lulz


I love this special anole living her best life in my yard. She is beautiful. This is the second time I’ve seen her, or one who looks like her.

The last anole with fragmented leucisticism (I just made that term up, there’s probably a real name for this phenomenon in lizards) looked like she was wearing sunglasses. Maybe this is her! I have too many photos to go back and check, and my iNat backlog is almost a year long now (save me).

July 3, 2019

Once upon a time (November 2017), I came upon a large hive covered in lovely stripey friends, and I took a photo. Unfortunately, I was still new to my camera, and I didn’t realize until I uploaded the photos that my focus depth was off. Oh no!

I uploaded my photos to iNaturalist, identified the friends as honeybees, and went on my way. Except, I was told that this was not a honeybee nest, and the bees had likely made this hive a temporary home while searching for a new one. 

Unsatisfied, I returned the next day, determined to get better photos of the nest. I got them

They weren’t bees temporarily taking up residence in an abandoned paper wasp nest. They were Mexican Honey Wasps, who make a big, elaborate paper nests. And also, honey. Yes, wasps that eat honey. Oh yeah, and they also eat pest insects that damage food crops, and it’s believed that these wasps were responsible for pollinating avocados before honeybees were introduced from Europe.

But anyway, I’m digressing. 

I don’t see these wasps very often. Besides on that nest, I haven’t really seen them elsewhere.

Until earlier this week. Guess who visited my garden?

I have an Elderberry bush baby growing (it’s not even a year old yet). And it would appear that Elderberry plants have nectaries–those little knobby things where the leaves attach to the stem by my fingers are the nectaries. Think of nectaries as little plant nipples that let insects drink nectar direct from the tap. Ants and wasps can’t get enough of them. While I was taking these pictures, I had two other wasp species wandering through this bush for the nectaries!

But that wasp up there?

Going to town on the nectaries here?

Mexican Honey Wasp

I’m going to be so excited if their nest ends up being in my yard! They’d be smart to put one in there! So many bugs for them to eat! So much delicious nectar! 

I love my yard. I’m at 989 species right now. So close to 1,000. 

March 17, 2019

I always wondered about the houses of snails. Do they… create them? Why that shape? Will they essentially die if they were separated from their house or can they like… grow a new one or steal a discarded one like a hermit crab? In that vein: does the house grow with them or do they have to shed it if it gets too small…? 🧐🤔

Great Questions!


iNaturalist links to the above snails for IDs:
Top: [1] [2] [3] Middle: [4] [5] [6] Bottom [7] [8] [9]

Snails are in the class Gastropoda with slugs, and the only difference between the two are that slugs don’t have a shell. But, it’s hard to tell what to to call some species.


This is a Long-tailed Semi-slug from Malaysia (Copyright Arnold Wijker, photo from iNaturalist [link]). It has a shell, but it can’t fully retract into it, so it acts more like a slug. The shell is partially covered by flesh in this photo, but the semi-slug can completely cover the shell with its mantle.

If you go up one taxonomic level to phylum, slugs and snails are mollusks–same as clams (bivalves, two shells!) and cuttlefish (which is where cuttlebones come from, if you have pet birds, you are giving them cuttlefish bones chew up!). So you can trace the evolution of the shell in Mollusca from bivalves, to gastropods, to cephalopods (one internal shell, though the chambered nautilus still has an external shell!)

But back to your questions!

Do snails create their shells? 

Yes, absolutely! Do you create your skeleton? Do you create your skin? It’s the same situation for them.


Snails are born with their shells! I used to keep a planted aquarium, which meant I often had snails GALORE (they would ride in on my new plants, and reproduce like crazy). Snails are hermaphrodites, so you don’t have to worry about if you have males and females, as long as you have two (or even one–some species can self-fertilize!), you will have a million in a week. The eggs of the snails I had in my aquarium were held together with a clear jelly, and the developing snails in the eggs were white. In the lower photo below, you can see the babies in the eggs. The white parts are their shells–their skin was still transparent.

A much larger baby snail I found in my tank is in the above left, with my index finger for scale (still a tiny baby!). In the top right, I have included a very tiny baby snail from my back yard in Texas. This baby was so small his shell was still transparent!

Another question you asked kinda answered another one: 

Why that shape? Do the shells grow with them? 

This one gets really interesting! So, snails are born with their shells. But unlike arthropods, they don’t molt. They keep the same shell their entire life, for the same reason turtles do:


From Wikipedia [link]; Original by Al2, English captions and edits by Jeff Dahl 

All their organs are in there! Some snails will even let you see inside, like with this glass snail from France!


Photo by Julien Renoult, available on public domain via iNaturalist [link]

So what do they do when they need to grow? Let’s look a little closer.

Here is a common snail in Texas, called a Texas Liptooth Snail [iNat link]. This is a full-grown adult:


These are pretty small snails, so let’s look in the microscope:


Check out those ridges! Maybe you have noticed these ridges on other snails before, or maybe you haven’t. The ridges are much more pronounced on this snail because the shell is so small, but those ridges function similarly to a ring on a tree–it represents a period of growth. The shell is made up almost entirely of Calcium Carbonate, the same mineral that composes limestone and eggshells (you know, like in bird eggs?). That tiny smooth area in the center of the shell is the portion that formed while the snail was inside the egg, then as the snail ate, the nutrients from its food were used to grow extra rings at the opening of the shell, which became steadily bigger, which allowed the snail’s body to grow! Then it could eat even more food, put down bigger rings, and on and on.

So now you may be wondering, I’m talking about snail shells which are usually spiral shaped, which can be long and narrow, wide and flat, or any variation of the two. But I’m not even talking about that weird… pointy cone thing I included in my opening collage?

You mean… the limpet? 


Oh yes, the limpets. These ones are Tortoiseshell Limpets from New Zealand [link] You may have noticed them on saltwater beaches, stuck to the rocks, and you may have confused them for strange looking barnacles, or maybe you had no idea what they were and you just ignored them or forgot about them. Or maybe you had a different name for them. But, yes, they are gastropods. And yes, that makes them snails.

These grow almost exactly like trees: much more simply put, they are little cones, and as they grow, they make a ring at their base, which makes them a little bit larger. For some species, the availability of nutrients will result in different colors in their rings, so you can see their age very clearly!

So what happens if they lose their shell?

I think by now, you can probably guess. They can’t really “lose” their shell, because it’s part of their body, which you can see if you take a really close look at snails (or you just, harass the heck out of them like I do). 


Snails that hold onto their shells with their mantles!
TOP: A tailed snail I saw in Malawi (Africa [iNat Link]) BOTTOM: One of my aquarium snails


Shy snail friends attempt to retreat to safety but can’t because their organs are in the way
LEFT: A large friend from Malawi [iNat link] RIGHT: A Wolfsnail friend from Texas [iNat link]



If you can get a view of a snail from the right angle, you can see their body coming out of their shell.


LEFT: Globular drop [iNat link] RIGHT: Decollate snail [iNat Link], both from Texas
GIANT friend on my arm from Malawi [iNat link]

Thanks for asking, I hope I satisfied your curiosity! 

March 16, 2019

Every time my neighbors complain about all the scorpions and snakes I always chime in with how it’s not fair everybody seems to get all these scorpions and snakes except me and they should send them to my house.

And I guess I’m joking but one of my neighbors told me she had a scorpion for me so I went to pick up the tiny baby. Look how precious! This is a striped bark scorpion. I released the baby in a pile of wood in my yard.

February 15, 2019



Some Handsome Men Finches

Top two: Lesser Goldfinch
Bottom three: House Finch, who is yellow instead of red like most (I love him)

Posted Feb 12, 2019

Whoa. Your Texas LEGO males are wild-looking. I’ve had 30+ Lesser Goldfinches hanging off my two sock feeders lately, but none of them look like that.

Oh yes, we do get the black-backed flavor males here. I don’t know if I’ve seen the green-backed ones in Texas. My guide says most males from Colorado to Texas are black-backed, west of Colorado they’re green-backed. You do get some awkward-transition males during spring though:


The above photos were taken at the FABULOUS bird blind at Inks Lake State Park in Burnet County, TX (being in that blind was a religious experience). I left the blind and got to see two grey hairstreaks mating, then got onto a trail for a little bit, and a hummingbird saw me and immediately proceeded to I shit you not do hardcore aerial maneuvers (like, he was painting the sky with a gigantic smiley face holy carp that hummer was either loving life or was seriously high on fermented sugar water). And he was flying AT me for part of his show, too. 

Then on my way back to my car, I found a gall that is made by nematodes [link].

February 13, 2019

@inaturalist posted the video from our Southwest Texas Bioblitz this past April [link to iNat blog post about the trip]. I can’t believe it was so long ago, it still feels like yesterday! :’) Check out all our observations! [link to iNat project]

In the above footage, you may observe me and my bffs in our natural habitat, chasing after bugs and staring at cactii. I’m the one in the horrible striped button-down and/or horrible floppy red hat, both of which I love.

A couple highlights in the video!
At 1:05Acanthocephala alata sighted! My first one! 
At 1:43 – How many sphinx moths can I get on one hand?!

Some of my posts from this trip:
Rushed Del Rio Photo Update [link]
West Texas Desert Landscapes [link]

August 29, 2018

The Bold Jumper; My Friend: A Photo Essay

Photos from June 2 / Posted August 11, 2018