Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sandcastles in the sand

Dan found several of these freshly-excavated sand tunnels near the shore
at the Delaney Project in Stow. The holes are about the same diameter
as a nickel.

Can you identify what made them?


  1. Nickel size seems a little small for a vole. A shrew?

  2. Were these mounds nests of turtle eggs? Can snakes dig up the eggs? I guess "dig" would not be quite the right word, since snakes have no legs, but could a snake get into such a nest?

  3. Too dry for crawfish mounds. Wish there was something in the pix for scale, Dan. That middle shot is the most puzzling. Do water shrews leave sign like this?

  4. You're all *way* off so far. I'll post the answer in a while, but here are some not-so-helpful clues:

    - there were several dozen of these in an area the size of a tennis court. Hopefully there aren't that many snakes or crawfish infesting Delaney.

    - I saw the creature that made the tunnel emerge from the tunnel, pushing out excavated sand (those piles you see along the edges of the trough) and then go back into the tunnel. This was on my morning dog walk, so you can rule out nocturnal pygmy burrowing owls.

    - I didn't have to wait around to see one of the creatures emerge (although I never saw a second one in any of the other spots). This wasn't a particularly shy creature (not that it noticed me), and to be quite honest, I was WAY more afraid of it than it would have been of me.

    - None of you have gotten the "leg count" correct. :)

  5. I thought as much! That's neat, I haven't seen one of these make a trough as long as the one shown in your second photo. The first shot is more typical of what I've seen.

  6. OK, well given the hint about leg count, I am thinking about some kind of burrowing beetle or spider. Since you say you were afraid of it, I will go with a spider, just because more people fear spiders than beetles. Was it a wolf spider?

  7. Wolf spiders and crawfish both have eight legs, according to the helpful teenagers at Yahoo Answers. Still no progress on the leg count.

    0 legs - snakes
    2 legs - pygmy burrowing owls
    4 legs - voles, shrews, turtles, water shrews
    8 legs - crawfish, spiders

  8. Well, crayfish actually have ten legs, which is why they're placed in the order Decapoda.

  9. Well then let's go with 6 legs. Some sort of burrowing beetle or wasp? Sand wasp? Sorry, we've reached the limits of my bug knowledge. Guess I ought to read Charlie's book.

  10. I going to stick with wasp, and further specify: cicada killer wasp, given the photo at the following link that is so similar to one of yours:

    However, one need not fear them, unless one is a cicada, or some other large insect.

  11. We have a winner! Congratulations, Janet, you've won a hurricane. Prize will be delivered shortly.

    Janet's link has much better photos of the Cicada Killer Wasp than I was able to capture with my pocket camera's focus.

    Regarding fear and giant wasps:
    I was crouched down, pretty close to the hole, trying to get video of the wasp backing out from the tunnel. My trusty assistant Teddy came bounding back down the trail and put his paw directly onto the tunnel as he passed by, sending the giant wasp buzzing up in alarm. Sensing that I was not a cicada, the wasp did a few cautious passes by the tunnel before settling back down and disappearing underground to resume excavation.

  12. Congratulations to you, Janet. You have every right to be proud. Dan, I think you should be commended for coming away unscathed from an arguably terrifying experience. Having Teddy as a sidekick seems to have its pros and cons.