Wednesday, September 15, 2010

In a bowl of rocks; International Rock Flipping Day 2010

What kind of example am I? Reminding everybody to get out there and flip rocks on Sunday, and then sneaking out myself on Saturday, when it was convenient; is that right? Is it fair?

It isn't. So I redeemed myself by going out in the rain on Sunday -- a quick dash to bring in a bowl of rocks and put it on my desk.

Somehow, rocks always come home with me. Flat, round rocks that look like cookies, translucent rocks, rocks with strange insertions, red rocks, patterned rocks, heart-shaped rocks, rocks full of glassy crystals; I pick them up, look at them, and they find their way into my pocket.

At home, some end up holding down the soil in flower pots, some sit in the bird bath; most end up drifting around until they end up in a battered aluminum bowl that belonged to my mother when I was a kid. Usually, it sits in the garden. This is what I brought in.

It was raining, and the rocks were wet. I didn't expect to find much more than a slug or two. But there were more critters than rocks.

"Potato" rock.

Of course, there were a couple of slugs. This one sleeps in a clam shell, beside a pile of his own poop.

An ordinary grove snail, but with intriguing patterns carved into the shell.  And look at his companion!

This spider is tiny. I couldn't make out what she was carrying until I saw the photos.

Plenty of sowbugs; smooth ones, like this, and  ...

... textured one, like this one, captured wandering around the rim of the bowl.

Many tiny spiders dashed away as I removed the rocks, one by one. I caught this one rappelling his way down a rock face.

And landing safely on a rock below.

Turning to face his tormentor.

These were about the size of small fruit flies. But I have no idea what they are. One for BugGuide.

Another one. Hairy little critter.

*Update: Christopher Taylor identifies these flies as Psychodidae, otherwise known as "Moth flies" or "drain flies". They like damp organic matter.

On one of the lower, wetter rocks, an earthworm. I love how the twisting intestine shows through the skin.

And another tiny snail, a relative of the 2-millimetre snails from last year's RFD.

And there were two red things; a tiny mite, too small and too fast for me, and a fat, deep red, round-bellied thing, about 3 or 4 mm long, that I saw twice, racing into cover. I looked through all the rocks for it several times and never found it again.

And now my conscience is clear.


  1. The little hairy winged insects are flies of the family Psychodidae. They tend to hand around damp places with a certain proportion of decaying organic matter; I've always associated them with toilets.

  2. Thanks, Christopher! I'd never seen anything like these before, but I guess a bowlful of rocks out in the garden in the rain would be an ideal site for them.

    I'll update the post.

  3. These are awesome, I love the patterns on that shell

  4. I continue to be amazed at the quality of your photos, and the details they portray. Keep 'em coming! Wow, so many more creatures than I would have expected from a bowl of rocks, especially smooth ones.

  5. You are the master of finding the miniature. - Margy


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