Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pool crashers

We went through the process of qualifying as a certified wildlife habitat a few years ago.  We did so as part of our move away from supporting a large standardized suburban lawn.  The process served mostly as a sort of checklist for us that we were doing everything to promote diversity we could.  There are no rewards of obtaining certification other than the knowledge you've done a little something to help out your wild(er) neighbors along with the potential privilege of observing a wider variety of fauna up close.

Over the years we've been delighted and fascinated by most of our unexpected suburban visitors, especially after we transitioned from having two dogs running loose out in the back. Since then, with only indoor cats in the official menagerie, we've left certain areas of our lot alone, created and maintained specific habitat supports, and happily observed as the numbers and varieties of visitors increased.

Some nocturnal regulars are observed indirectly by the tell-tale signs they leave behind, such as the dirty mess when local raccoons raiding our compost heap and bird feeders wash up their spoils on the top pool stair.

Armadillos as well, have left behind any number of grub hunting holes, though we'd rarely see them lumbering about.

This morning however, the Hub and a litter of four young armadillos were mutually surprised as he was working on the pool and they were emerging from a burrowed hole that is beneath the rock work around their "pond".
As he yelled his surprise, the four young armadillos immediately jumped into the water and then began swimming around in what looked to our untrained eyes as somewhat frantic fashion.

To our relief and despite our attempts to herd them in any particular direction, one by one they all found stairs at either end of the pool and clambered out.  All while the Hub and I expressed anxious mutual dread at the idea they might tire and drown.
As if.

It turns out our state small mammals are excellent swimmers.  Armadillos can inflate their intestines in order to stay afloat and potentially swim long distances (otherwise their heavy carapace weighs them down).  They are also capable of holding their breath for up to six minutes, which reportedly allows them to sink and walk across creek and river beds.

Nobody, human or otherwise, was harmed by the swimming pool surprise this morning  (if you don't count the adrenaline surge the Hub experienced).   We're not thrilled to have what is apparently an active burrow so close to the pool, but the shy creatures are more typically out and about at night so there is no immediately obvious reason to try and relocate them.
Nine-banded Armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus)

That's a most interesting lesson I keep learning from our wilder neighbors.  No matter how we arrange our beds and paths and features, they have their own requirements and their own ideas about where is ideal to set up shop.

I remind myself these are historically their spaces - they were all around long before our houses intruded, and will remain around long after we've moved on.

I may just have this who is providing habitat for whom thing backwards.


Tina said...

That last photo is especially good. I know many who shake their heads in frustration because of the damage these little dudes can visit upon gardens, but I'm with you: they were here first and they do have rights to continue doing their thing. I don't have any (so easy for me to say the above...), but I think they're really cute. I have a friend in Westlake who has a group of four that she's nicknamed the "Gang of Four."

Steph@RamblingWren said...

I had NO idea that armadillos could swim. They must really LOVE your backyard. This would make an excellent beer commercial. Have you thought of contacting Bud Light? Maybe you can film them swimming and put it on Youtube;)

TexasDeb said...

Tina: I read that Momma Dillo has a set of 4 babies each year so your friend's group is most likely a set of litter mates. "Gang of Four" is hilarious, but can you imagine having quadruplets every time? Yeeikes.

Steph: You are too funny - I hadn't made the beer connection. I'd only been aware of armadillo's stellar jump straight up in the air athleticism prior to this. Now I'm wondering what other wonders they are capable of.

Live and learn! Thanks to both of y'all for dropping by.

Kathleen Scott said...

What a cool post, Deb! I didn't know about armadillos swimming. And you got great photos too. I'm beginning to think the recurring hole under some rocks in one of my beds belongs to an armadillo. I haven't seen the culprit, but I can't keep it filled. Every time I pack the dirty in, I find a hole the next morning.

And kudos for getting certified as a national wildlife sanctuary. every neighborhood needs good examples.

TexasDeb said...

Thanks Kathleen. I don't display the signage any longer after the hooraw about the corporate sponsor and their selling birdseed that was potentially contaminated with pesticides. Politics is everywhere these days. I'm still glad we certified however.

I'm betting you are right about your continually re-dug hole, that sounds just like our little armored friends in action.