Salamanders, Dragonflies and Caterpillars

Previously I wrote about the animals we have on the ranch and taking care of them.  We have longhorn cattle, a horse, a mule, and – my favorite – the chickens.  We also see plenty of wildlife, especially lizards and rabbits.  I haven’t seen a rattlesnake this summer, which is just fine with me.  We have lots of birds and an occasional coyote.  Recently I’ve been enjoying the salamanders, dragonflies, and the White Lined Sphinx Caterpillar.

Salamander with water strider above

The salamanders live in the ponds behind where I do my spinning demonstrations.  We don’t have any fish and we have big mats of algae.  Waterstriders (Gerridae) live on top of the ponds and the salamanders love to eat the waterstriders.  Our salamanders are Barred Tiger Salamanders that can grow up to thirteen inches in length.  The salamanders here are usually very shy, hiding under the algae mats, but they are much more visible during the late summer when they are breeding.  I saw them everyday during September, but now they are back under the mats.

Flame Skimmer dragonfly

Two kinds of dragonflies live around the ponds.  We have the Blue Dasher dragonfly, which is very common and found all over the United States.  But we also have the orange Flame Skimmer, which I had never seen until we came here.  Both kinds fly around the ponds, making their homes in the trees during the night.  The birds delight in catching them, although the dragonflies are really fast.  In fact, they are so fast that it is almost impossible for me to get a picture of them.  I finally succeeded when one lit long enough on a branch for me to zoom in.  Then he zoomed off!

White Lined Sphinx Moth

The last of my wildlife sightings is the White Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar.  For several days they crawled through the monument on some kind of migration.  They are very distinctive and easy to see.  The caterpillars are five inches long, bright green, with an orange horn on their tail.  Consequently they are also called hornworms.  They were especially easy to see because there were so many of them.  Hundreds of them crawling along the sidewalks to the place they will burrow underground to metamorphose.  They make a big mess when you step on them, so Tom put out a “Worm Crossing” sign.  The migration is over now, but we are still scraping caterpillar guts off the sidewalks.

White Lined Sphinx caterpillar

Those are a few of the fun and different creatures we see here at Pipe Spring.  When we travel from place to place, we always find something new.