Not rolling downhill

I came across this on my Friday morning dog walk down the mountain.


It’s a dung beetle, deltochilum gibbosum, the humpback dung beetle, if my identification is correct. I might have noticed the beetle by itself, but what caught my attention from a distance was a moving ball of what appears to be dog poop. It’s possible, in fact probable, that I know the source. The ball was probably slightly more than an inch in diameter.

The beetle had made it about a quarter of the way across Fouche Gap Road. I usually help living things cross the road (turtles, crawfish, snakes), but in this case I felt I just had to let the beetle take its chances. I didn’t see any sign of it when we came back up the mountain, so maybe it was lucky.

I had never seen a dung beetle at work before this, although Walter Reeves, a gardening expert in Georgia, says they are probably in back yards here in Georgia. This link leads to a question that someone submitted to Reeves about using dung beetles to clean up dog droppings in his yard.

I handle that problem by trying to make sure the dogs leave their droppings in the weeds in unpopulated areas along the road. That way they join the rest of the droppings left by the mammal population around here. I think it’s reasonably acceptable in the ecological sense, although I suggest that you watch your step if you walk in the weeds along Fouche Gap Road.

Zeke and Sam are good about not messing up their own territory. Lucy, on the other hand, doesn’t give a …


Our two dwarf gardenia plants are starting to bloom. Gardenia was my mother’s favorite scent. I suppose it’s probably pretty old-fashioned these days, but the real thing is nice.


The amazing thing is how many buds there are. There are hundreds of unopened blooms.


It looks like there are more buds than leaves.

They won’t all open at the same time, but if they did … that would be a sight.

Roaring falls

We had a little over three inches of rain from Tuesday morning through sometime before dawn on Wednesday, December 2. When I took the dogs for their walk Wednesday morning, runoff was still sheeting across the road at our neighbor’s driveway. As I went further, I could hear the wet-weather stream formed from the ditch on Lavender Trail. A little further and the sound was everywhere. It was so loud as I walked down the mountain that it drowned out the noise of approaching cars. It made me wonder what the Little River Falls over in Alabama looked like. So Wednesday afternoon Leah and I drover the 30 miles over have a look.

Here’s what we saw. Click for a bigger image.


Here’s what it looked like from the bridge just upstream.


The sound is necessary to appreciate the falls. Here’s a video I shot with our little Nikon point and shoot.

If you can’t view that one, try this one.

I have posted images of these falls before, once here and another time here. I thought I had seen the river high, but I was mistaken. This was really high. If I’m reading the USGS data correctly, this may be a new recorded instantaneous high flow.


When I walked the dogs down the Texas Valley side of Fouche Gap on Tuesday, something just above the road cut caught my eye. At first it looked like a larger-than-normal CD hanging in the brush. It was an almost perfectly round spider web. I tried to take a picture with my phone, but it was too far away. I went back on Wednesday with a camera. I didn’t find the same web, but I found others.

two webs


Here are two more.

two other websThey are backlit by the morning sun. The circumferential strands catch the light just like the concentric rings of a CD. Here’s a closer shot.

web closerOur camera has a long zoom lens, but I was too shaky to get a really well-focused shot at a longer zoom. This is about the best I could do. I think that’s the spider in the center.

They were really cool to see, but I would hate to wrap one around my face if I were walking through the woods.




Snakes on a road

Leah and I saw this snake last week when we took the dogs for a short evening walk.


This is a blurred shot. It was past sunset so the light was bad, and all I had to take the shot was my phone. On top of that, this little snake was really moving. I didn’t recognize it. In fact, I’m not sure I have ever seen one before. I searched online for a black snake with a white ring around its neck and quickly found that it was – surprise! – a ringneck snake.

This link leads to an article about the ringneck snake at the Savannah River Ecology Lab website

According to the SREL site, ringneck snakes are 10 to 15 inches long. The one we saw was less than six inches, so it was almost certainly an immature example, or possibly a hatchling (see the image of a hatchling ringneck in a person’s hand at the SREL site). SREL says that the ringneck snake has one of the largest ranges of any North American snake. Its range spreads from Florida to Canada, across the US Southwest and up along the Pacific coast.

Wikipedia says, “Ring-necked snakes are believed to be fairly abundant throughout most of their range, though no scientific evaluation supports this hypothesis.” However, SREL cites a capture-mark-and-release study by Henry Fitch in 1975 that found densities greater than 700 to 1800 per hectare (2.47 acres) in Kansas. That’s a lot of snakes.

This small, shy snake seldom shows itself during the day, which probably explains why I had never seen one. But then a couple of days later I saw another one when I took the dogs on their morning walk. This one looked like it had been run over at the edge of the road, but when I nudged it with my foot, it raced off into the weeds.

I should have taken a picture before I nudged it, but I didn’t want to take a picture of a dead snake. Dead snakes are not uncommon on the roads around here. Just last week, in addition to the live ringneck snakes, I saw one large black snake and a large copperhead that had been run over. Both had apparently been sunning themselves in the road after a cool night. That was probably what the little ringneck was doing as well. Since they’re small, the ringnecks aren’t as good a target for our local drivers as larger other snakes.