Imagine a safari in your neighborhood. Instead of a few days hauling luggage through international airports, though, picture a leisurely five minute stroll from the front door.
Local nature holds fantastic mini wildlife. For those willing to trade global for local, and large for small, there is plenty to see. I am speaking of ant lions instead of lions, of course, and spiders instead of spider monkeys, but the biology of little animals is just as complex. They are smaller, sure, but their diminutive stature is more than fairly compensated by their vast diversity. Our planet simply holds more of the under 1-inch set. A lot more. Dung beetles alone outnumber the global count of mammal species, and there are more weevils than all birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and amphibians combined.
My nine-month-old daughter and I undertook a modest micro safari this weekend. We visited a small oak in a local park, pictured above. Over the course of an hour we found a great number of subjects just among the branches of a single young tree. Below is a gallery of animals that remained still enough to photograph during our hunt.
First are animals that feed directly on the tree.
Next, the sap-feeding insects attract ants to the tree.
The ants inevitably attract ant predators.
Meanwhile, other predators in our tree hunt for prey.
The most important tactic to a mini-safari is to be attentive. Small specks under magnification turn out to be alive, and some animals are so well camouflaged as to be invisible until they move.
All this from a single tree. We're thinking next of looking under a rock, but I might need to clear my memory card first.