A trio of unusual delights this week. Here goes.
A screech owl was peeping out of its box just at dusk in a friend's yard near Cape Haze when I managed to snap his funny face with my camera.
Screech owls will readily use nest boxes and set up housekeeping right in your yard. They are great houseguests since they eat all manner of small pests and serenade you at night to boot.
These slime molds inspired the science fiction movie, “The Blob.” (1958 with Steve McQueen, remade 1988).
Their comical behavior when they sit at the nest box hole and watch what you are doing must indicate they are anxious to leave the box and go hunting, but have to wait until dark to sally forth to avoid daytime predators. Or maybe they are just curious about all that noise outside when they are trying to sleep.
On a smaller level, a female two-striped walking stick found recently at Wildflower Preserve is a bug with an attitude.
Although generally peaceful, it has a powerful defense against attack by squirting a smelly and toxic liquid containing terpenes, which can cause temporary blindness and is highly irritating. The female is much larger than the male and is often seen carrying him around while they mate. Hence the country name "devil rider."
Getting right down to the ground, we found what looks like the infamous so-called "Dog Vomit Slime Mold." This slime mold is growing and creeping along on some wood chips just next to the bird-feeding complex at Wildflower between ponds three and four.
Slime molds exist in nature as a plasmodium, a blob of protoplasm without cell walls and only a cell membrane to keep everything in. It is just a large amoeba and feeds much the same way, by engulfing its food (mostly bacteria) with pseudopodia.
The slime mold ingests its food then digests it. These slime molds inspired the science fiction movie, "The Blob." (1958 with Steve McQueen, remade 1988). The box says "gut-wrenching thriller about an amoeba-like life form that crashes to Earth in an American town and begins absorbing everything in sight.
Occasionally people in more subtropical regions find large slime mold plasmodia in their yard and call the police, believing the blob has landed. It hasn't.
This is a great opportunity to see this remarkable form of life. Just don't get too close because it has a pungent smell.