Monday, 10 September 2012

Fear and food chains

I'm not the only one who goes through life in mortal terror of rattlesnakes.

The other morning, I stepped off my porch and met a pair of baby cottontail bunnies huddled together, deep in an innocent sunrise sleep. Possessing little experience in the wildlife gender determination department, I decided on the spot that the two were sisters. 

Flopsy and Mopsy. 
My footsteps woke the sisters. Their eyes flew open and they trembled in fear. As with wildlife gender determination, I'm a beginner when it comes to interpreting rabbit winks. My best guess is that they wanted to know if I was a giant two-legged snake-beast out looking for breakfast. But they hopped off before I could ask. 

When I first moved to La Luna, the local Fauna Committee sent a team of scorpions and hornets to welcome me. I've met many quieter, subtler creatures since then who, like me, are tricky to locate because of a mortal fear of snakes. 

Serendipity is the fun part anyway. Wild turkeys leave feathers and footprints around my yard, always a step ahead. Chance glances at garage ceilings reveal perfectly still bats waiting patiently for nightfall. 

At dusk, my porch light is greatest hub of insect activity in the known universe. Seriously, if you are an entomologist, get in touch - you should meet my porch light. 

Night falls and the swarm dances. Those at the bottom of the bug food chain repeatedly thwack their heads on the light bulb and fail to learn from the experience. Those at the top devour those at the bottom. My porch-watching research indicates that in general, it's a good idea to avoid being the butt of any food chain where preying mantises are involved. 

The bugs are not alone. Slowly, and only when they suspect my children have finally toddled off to bed, the toads join the party. Outnumbered by a million to one, the toads are the world's laziest hunters.  

Prince Charming, not charmed. 
I suspect the toads quit eating around four in the morning when the site of one more delicious bug would make them explode, thus rendering their escape from my nearly-wakeful children impossible. But I've never stayed up past about eight-thirty to check.

Some nights the toads are out-smarted. Like last night, when a pair of sisters lay silently in bed with eyes wide open till long after the moon has risen. When quiet finally crept over the house around eight-thirty, the sisters escaped out the door and onto the porch. 

The toads had nowhere to run. They were kissed, then catapulted off the porch when they failed to develop prince-like qualities.

The poor toads have good reason to fear my children, because this trauma is very likely to be repeated again next week.  

Everybody's afraid of somebody. 


  1. Thanks K! Bring A&E out to the wild west sometime...I think they would dig the creatures (and their parents might enjoy the farm pear plonk).

  2. Rabbits and toads and bugs Oh my! Shame about the princes.

  3. Indeed - but then again, a fat bug-eating toad is probably cuter than your average prince :)