Racing for Life

(Burrowing Owl Update Below)

Probable Brown Garden Snail (Cornu aspersum)

I owe this pic to another park visitor who stopped on her walk, bent low, and took pictures of the ground with her cellphone. I might have missed it or worse, not missed it, ambling along as I was with my eyes on birds. I’m no mollusc expert but it’s very likely that this is the common Brown Garden Snail, aka European Garden Snail. Humans imported them from Europe in the 1850s as a culinary delicacy (escargots). Since then they have spread everywhere and established themselves as a premier garden pest, voraciously devouring every kind of greenery.

A UC Davis website points out:

Though you can eat snails from your yard, be aware that even though you may not use snail/slug bait, poison laid out by your neighbor may infect seemingly healthy snails in your yard — ingesting poisoned snails can kill you! Be sure to read more about farming garden snails before consuming any slimy things off the ground. To be on the safe side, you could always buy some canned escargot [at a store].

Essentially, the only difference between slugs and snails is that snails carry coiled shells on their backs while slugs don’t. Both have eyes at the tips of short stalks arising below the base of much longer, more slender tentacles – these tentacles feel what the simple eyes may not see. The radular mouths of these gastropods are directed downward so that food can be taken from the surface over which they travel. And finally, all gastropods have a single, broad, muscular, flat-bottom foot which propels them with the help of a special gland in the foot that secretes mucus. The common garden snail is the slowest moving animal and can travel about 0.03 mph (0.05 kph).

However, other sources (in fact, all other sources) say that land snails, like this one, have their eyes on the long stalks at the top of their heads, while the short stalks near the bottom are organs of smell and touch. Snails also have light-sensing cells all over their bodies. They react if a shadow falls over them.

At the moment of our encounter, the snail was about halfway across the 4-foot wide paved path. This happened yesterday, the dry day. Though the pavement was still wet, the sun was starting to come out and the surface would soon become dry and costly for the snail’s mucus gland. It was racing for survival to the other side where the rain-soaked soil and a wealth of vegetation would sustain it for the day.

Burrowing Owl Update

This Friday morning (the 13th) the Burrowing Owl was back in Perch B, after a one-day absence in Perch A. In Perch B, park visitors could readily see it from the paved perimeter trail, but I was the only one who did, owing to a cloudburst about half an hour previously. The top of the owl’s head looked wet but the rest of its feather coat seemed to have shed the downpour. Most birds, including owls, have a gland at the base of their tail that issues an oil that, when applied to the feathers, repels water. In the wind and the rain, the owl looked alert and undaunted. Here’s a minute selected from a longer sequence begun at 8:30 this morning:

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) Jan 13 2023

Photographer Louis Kruk happened to be in the park yesterday when the Burrowing Owl was in Perch A, far away. Louis shared these two images, commenting how different the bird’s face looks. When the owl dips into its body feathers, preening, it sometimes comes up with its facial feathers rearranged, showing prominent white eyebrows and something like mutton chops. The bird has a complex multi-layer feather structure, with a fine almost fur-like down layer at the base. It can make that down layer stand erect, briefly giving it the altered appearance.

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One thought on “Racing for Life

  • s/he’s our local celebrity!
    thanks to the paparazzi Marty Nicolaus. 🙂

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