There is a phrase common to people who have lived and experienced life that has echoed in my head countless times, and that phrase has to do with time passing by rapidly as one matures. Never has that saying been so evident in my life as it has the past 12 months as I have been writing this column about the very things that I am so passionate about.
Having said that, I thought that this week might be a relevant time to look back at some of the marvelous creatures that we have living here in our own backyards.
Last November, we learned about some of the small mammals that appear in West Texas, including the omnivorous rock squirrel, the bright-eyed Merriam’s kangaroo rat, the nutria, an invasive species, and the masked raccoon.
In December, the column focused on snakes, including the “great pretender,” the western hog-nosed snake, the comical looking Texas patch-nosed snake, the brightly patterned checkered garter snake, and the endangered Texas indigo snake.
The new year had us looking at a few birds, including the noisy sandhill crane, the magnificent belted kingfisher, the beautifully colored northern cardinal, the American coot and the rarely seen osprey.
As February rolled around, we learned about a few arachnids, including the harmless, but intimidating, vinegarroon, the sharp sting of the bark scorpion and the tall tales of wind scorpions from around the world.
During March, we took a look at the common dog tick, the misunderstood western diamond-backed rattlesnake, the shy and elusive black-tailed rattlesnake, and the rediscovery of the Autlan long-tailed rattlesnake — which, although not occurring in this country, was a significant find in the herpetological realm.
As spring sprung in April, we again visited a few common birds in this area, including the bold American robin, my favorite, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, the tiny black-chinned hummingbird and the migratory yellow-headed blackbird.
In May, we learned about a few more mammals, including an animal that many are familiar with but have never seen, the nine-banded armadillo, the teeny-tiny desert shrew, a mammal that carries her tiny young with her in a pouch, the Virginia opossum, and the common cotton rat.
As summer approached, in June we looked at the nonnative but established honeybee, the long-lived and noisy cicada and the ant lion, horrifying in appearance yet only 1/8 of an inch in length.
July had us visiting amphibians for the first time, beginning with the Texas toad, then the variable Couch’s spadefoot, followed by the beautiful and petite green toad, and finishing with the southern spadefoot.
In August, we talked about the endangered Texas horned lizard (horny toad), the invisible round-tailed horned lizard, the fast Texas spotted whiptail, and then the nonnative, but very familiar, Mediterranean gecko.
September had us visiting some of the butterflies that occur in this region, beginning with the beautifully marked California sister butterfly, the bold-colored queen butterfly, the butterfly that makes its annual trip to southern Mexico the monarch butterfly, and the mimic of the two previous, the viceroy.
October found us looking at some of the most feared animals around, the eight-legged spiders. We began with the large and bold wolf spider, who carries its babies on its back, followed by the impressive yellow garden spider, who makes intricate webs in our backyards. Next was the comical bold jumping spider, then the large and hairy Texas brown tarantula.
We finished the first year off with one of the most feared spiders in our area, the sleek black widow spider.
As you can see, we have looked at a large variety of animals from this region, but we have only begun to scratch the surface. I always enjoy feedback from you, the reader, and I encourage you to contact me if there is an animal you would like to see highlighted.
Thank you for reading!