Critters that stopped me in my tracks

2010 November 18
by David J. Ringer

VICKSBURG, MISS. — I’m going to indulge what E. O. Wilson calls my biophilia and share four creature encounters from the last couple of months. I hope they evoke the same wonder in you that they did in me.


Mantidflies have highly specialized forelegs used for capturing insect prey in much the same manner as praying mantises. They are, however, members of the order Neuroptera, along with lacewings and antlions. This individual, which I believe belongs to either Dicromantispa or Leptomantispa, flew into my living room one morning and rested for awhile. I was enthralled.

Nine-banded Armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus

The nine-banded armadillo (Dasypus novemcinctus) is an astonishing creature. Just look at that body! To see one out in daylight, snuffling through leaf litter and loose grass, was a rare treat.

Golden Silk Orb-Weaver, Nephila clavipes

Golden silk orb-weavers (Nephila clavipes) are large, colorful spiders that decorate Mississippi’s forests — sometimes quite thickly — in late summer and fall. Their webs can span a couple of meters or more, and the thicker strands are distinctly yellow in color.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna autumnalis, with chick

I watched a family of Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) feeding in a Louisiana bayou. I’ve always thought the adults were brilliant, stunning birds, but the stripey ducklings with their oversize bills are absolutely melt-your-heart adorable.

5 Responses
  1. thainamu permalink
    November 18, 2010


  2. November 19, 2010

    Most excellent! Though the ducks are one of my all-time fave species, I have to say the armadillo takes the cake. I love those critters.

  3. Greg permalink
    November 21, 2010

    Hi David,
    Great post! We had a Mantisfly at GLADE last summer. I had never seen one. Very cool!

  4. Lisa Berger permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Can attest to multitudes of Golden Orb Weavers in the fall in MS…and the golden silk…way cool. Thanks David for the enlightenment.

  5. Baggins permalink
    November 22, 2010

    Golden silk orb-weavers… great. Now I’m going to have brightly-colored nightmares.

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