Hunt for the Harbinger II

The weatherman was right about the rain, if not the thunder, but it held off long enough that I was able to get out and make another attempt to find a Harbinger-of-Spring. The other locations I wanted to check were in the Rogers Creek-Waymeyer-Pin Oak area and my mother lives out in that direction, so I dragged her along to provide an extra set of eyes.

The first stop was along Rogers Creek at the mouth of what I call By George Hollow. I parked the truck and we started searching the creek bottom along the base of a rocky hill. The river had reached here during the December flood so there was a lot of fresh debris to look through. The first thing I noticed was that the leaf litter was crawling with the same wolf spiders that I found yesterday at Watercress. Everywhere you looked, two or three of the litter buggers was darting about.

We had searched for ten minutes or so when my Mom called out, “Is this what you’re looking for?” She was standing next to the large tree in the photo pointing to something on the ground.

I walked over and there it was.

A single plant poked a few centimeters above the leaves surrounding it. If you’ve never seen on of these flowers, it’s hard to appreciate how small it is so I took the following photo to provide a sense of scale.

Very easy plant to overlook, even if you’re looking specifically for it. We spent another half hour walking around the bottom and that single, lonesome plant was the only one we spotted.

While we were searching for the Harbinger-of-Spring, I kept turning over some of the many, many logs that the river had left strewn about, hoping to find a salamander or two. No luck with the salamanders, but I did find a land slug (I took several photos, but they all had so much glare on them that they were unusable) and several of these guys:

After looking through BugGuide for an hour and a half, I believe them to be the larvae of a Fire-Colored Beetle (Dendroides canadensis) or something very similar. BugGuide doesn’t show a record for Missouri for D. canadensis but they do have one for Illinois and I’m certain I’ve seen the adults before.

Back in the truck, we drove the half mile to Waymeyer road and parked so I could photograph Sandfield Hollow Spring. The area is pretty rough and the easiest route to the spring is right up the small creek.

The spring is located some 30 feet up the hill from the creek not much more than 100 yards from the road. This is the main outlet:

When the water table is lower, this is the only outlet that flows. Having had a very wet fall and winter, there was a second outlet that was almost as large as the first and really, the entire area around the spring was seeping water.

The rain finally caught up with us at this point so we hustled back to the truck. Not really ready to head back to the house, we drove on to Pin Oak where we found this guy:

It was raining pretty hard by now, so the leaves were soft and quiet allowing me to walk close without spooking him. I shot a dozen shots, but he kept moving about, the light was poor enough that I couldn’t use a fast shutter speed and this was the best shot of the lot. Finally, I stepped on a twig and the *snap* sent him bounding away.

I’ve always heard that armadillos were unable to withstand cold weather. Well, the last six weeks have been, at least by southern Missouri standards, really cold and nasty with separate snowfalls of 10 and 6 inches. This guy certainly looked hale and hearty so they must be more cold hardy than I had believed.

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