Something just moved …

Last night I took Katy to a night hike at Autry Mill Nature Preserve not far from our house. We thought we’d missed it at first. I was just sure the website said it was at 8 but when we drove to the turn-off the big sign on the main road said 7 p.m. I drove up anyway and there was a family in the parking lot. I asked if they were coming or going and they said coming. There were some other people at the start point who were just sure it started at 8, too, but they heard people down on the trails. Mr. Ben, the director, arrived and the mystery was solved. He thought it was at 7 and apparently someone else did, too, because he was not the one that put the time on the sign. But some people had seen the sign and someone else called and was told 7. And since Mr. Ben thought it was at 7, he showed up then. So he ended up doing two hikes. The 7:00 group got more of a “twilight hike”. By the time we started, it was dark! It was supposed to be 8, though. I’m pretty sure the mix-up came because during standard time when it gets dark earlier, they are at 7.

So we’re walking along the trail and Mr. Ben stopped to shine his flashlight on some animal eyes I never did see, a spider or lizard or something small. I put my hand on the post of the railing. Never touch anything in the dark in the woods. I said “Um … I just felt something move, can you shine your flashlight here?”. Mr. Ben’s flashlight revealed a millipede. He said “While I was looking for wildlife, you were rubbing elbows with it”. The kids were all excited and got to touch it. Mr. Ben said not to pick up millipedes or centipedes because they’re poisonous. He said they won’t kill you but if you touched it and rubbed your eyes “it would ruin your day” and you’d probably never pick one up again.

So we saw a few insects and small critters. The kids all thought it was hilarious when Mr. Ben picked up a grasshopper and it pooped on him. “Melissa” probably wasn’t too thrilled at being woken up in the middle of the night. Each thing he picked up got a name, the grasshopper was christened Melissa.

However, the real excitement came when we came to the creek. Mr. Ben crossed the creek (it’s narrow and shallow) and on his way back across I thought he tripped. He actually leaned down and plunged his hand into the water really quickly and came up with this:

A water snake! Something we learned while looking around the exhibit building before the walk is that some water snakes have musk scent for self-defense. They don’t spray like a skunk, it oozes from their pores and Mr. Ben says there’s usually a lot thrashing around involved so it gets well-distributed. Well, this snake got nervous and oozed out his musk. I never smelled it, it’s not nearly as strong as a skunk and since Mr. Ben was firmly holding the snake, it wasn’t thrashing. Katy got up close and smelled it, though.

Pee-yew, that stinks!

It was a very interesting evening. We saw a perfectly-formed spider web and then another one not as pretty but with the spider hanging out in the middle. The center closes at dusk so going hiking at night isn’t something you can do unless you attend a guided hike. The weather has cooled off, so it was really nice for a hike.

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