Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Circle of Life.


The pitch black spider has remained still for hours, hanging upside down on a web, it appears lifeless. Most spiders spin beautiful glistening spiral webs but this web has no shape or form. This spider is a rebel refusing to follow the rules that Mother Nature has bestowed upon other arachnids. A few beetles are entangled within the web and each insect appears as if it has been sucked dry.
The insect strikes out violently from it chaotic, silken web as a wasp sneaks in a little too close. A glimpse of a red hour glass can be seen on the back of the widow. The Mud Dauber makes a second fly by.  This time the wasp gets snared in the widow’s trap. Desperately he flips and flops trying to release itself from the web. The Black Widow attacks, piercing the wasp with its fangs.  The wasp begins to break free and sinks a stinger right through the spider’s abdomen. The fight continues back and forth, the widow becomes still. The wasp has paralyzed the widow and with a firm grip carries it away.
Flying by the great sandstone spire the wasp dives into a conical shaped nest of clay just a few feet from the web. The paralyzed widow is packed into the tube which is crammed full of half a dozen spiders and a single egg. These six spiders will be a nourishing meal for the larva before winter sets in.
As the wasp begins to emerge from its hive its movements begin to slow as it stumbles and falls lifeless into the sage below.
Blue Damsel-Flies begin to swarm around the dead insect. The largest of the group swoops down and lands on the pale green plant. With elongated arms the “Dragon-Fly” begins to nibble on the helpless Mud-Dauber.

Scurrying up the twigs of the sage a seven-inch-long lizard emerges, scaring off the vibrant blue insect. At first glimpse this appears to be a Western Fence Lizard. Though the scales seem considerably smaller and the dorsal scales are tan. A lite orange stripe adorns each side of the lizard’s belly. This is a tell-tell sign of the Sagebrush Lizard. A sticky little tongue emerges and races toward the dragonfly which has come back for a second feeding. The breeze from this movement sends the damsel’s flying, they do not return. The tongue flicks out again towards the wasp this time. The lizard spits, turns and scurries up the side of the Navajo Sandstone.
Deep in an underground burrow beneath the shade of juniper tree, a mother Cottontail Rabbit tends to her five young children. The babies all have pinkish skin and have yet to grow hair. This is an indication that these small pig like creatures are newborns.  They appear to be no longer than 5 inches in length. Each baby rabbit squirms and fights with its sibling as they hunger for mother’s milk. After a short feeding the mother pushes her children aside and scampers out of the hole.
The female rabbit darts over to a nearby wash and begins to dine on forbs and grasses. Beyond the cheat grass a coyote is crouched down as it silently makes it way towards the feeding rabbit. The bunny seems so caught up in eating that it is undisturbed by the approaching predator.
Suddenly the rabbit’s ears perk up; its nose begins to wiggle than it makes a break towards its hole. At the same instant that the nose wiggled the coyote leaps from behind a rock. The race begins; the rabbit makes a sharp right just before its home and breaks for shelter in the sagebrush. The coyote is right on its tail, as the rabbit is about to scurry down a hole beneath the sage, the coyote gets a firm grip on the bunnies tail. The rabbit begins to thrash around in an effort to break free. The coyote quickly turns and with a couple shakes the rabbit becomes limp.
The proud hunter returns to the den. Three pups are playing outside their home. They stock and jump at each other snarling and biting in a playful manner. Instantly they stop and run toward the fresh killed meat. The bigger coyote tosses the carrion to the ground then turns as if to return back to the hunt. The three pups rip into their afternoon snack.  A few disagreement over who gets what occur but the animals quickly devour their meal. A few chunks of meat, bone and hair remain as the pups return to play. They chase each other through the cheat grass while nipping at the air.
A group a four crows dart towards the left over meal. These scavengers also fight over who gets what, they tear at the remaining meat. Three of them play tug-a-war with one of the scraps. The Fourth bird that is slightly larger hops over and takes it away. After every bone is picked clean the crows return to the air, circling above the juniper and sage.
A couple Ground Squirrels running at full speed quickly climb the juniper. A Brush Mouse darts across the sand and disappears into the vegetation.
A faint rattle can be heard as the coyote pups discover the Great Basin Rattlesnake that is slithering across the landscape. One of the pups begins to whimper and they all run back to the safety of their den. The snake continues past the den and through the Cheat grass. The rattler stops for a few second and lashes out its tongue as if it is tasting the air.  It begins to slither across the sand and to the base of the juniper tree. It stops again to taste the air. After a brief pause it moves towards the rabbit’s burrow and drops down into the depths.