20 September 2009

Have You Flipped A Rock Today?

Just a reminder that today is International Rock Flipping Day---an opportunity for some informal ecosystem inventorying. A game the whole family can play (indeed, there is a certificate available for the junior rock-flippers out there).

I did go out this morning and do my scientific duty. Unfortunately, I am no photographer (as you might already have noticed). But here is a general description of the event...

It's a sunny morning here in western Washington. According to the weather station just across the water from me, current air temp is 57 degrees Fahrenheit and we have 81% humidity; winds are out of the west at 4 miles per hour. In short, it is shaping up to be a gorgeous day. Perhaps I should have delayed my flippin' foray, but I just couldn't wait. I had to head out into the yard. My neighbour might wish I hadn't, as I looked a bit unkempt; but, whatever. At least I wasn't the one in a bathrobe. Anyway...

I had a hard time picking a good subject for study. This was not due to a lack of rocks. My property has plenty of options---which was what made the decision that much more difficult. Should I pick something in the driveway? Nah...little likelihood of life under there. What about one of the flowerbeds? Rocks were too small. I was starting to flip out a bit, because I couldn't find a rock that was just right. And then, I spotted these lone rangers along the street side of the property:


Now here was some real potential. A good size, which might mean they hadn't been disturbed in some time...settled into organic material, so there was likely some life underneath...on the south side of the property, where there would be the most sun and warmth for small creatures. Perfect! Here's the gratuitous after shot:


Not very exciting, is it? Doesn't appear to be a flippin' thing under that rock! Well, chalk that up to my poor camerawork rather than lack of multi-legged fauna to observe. I did see 4 roly-polys (a/k/a wood lice, sow bug, pillbugs, Armadillidiidae reps). They scampered into the crevices in the dirt as soon as the sunlight hit them. They were obviously not morning crustaceans. I also saw a little critter that reminded me of a centipede or silverfish. It had many legs, was light orange in colour, and no more than one inch in length. It, too, scrambled toward darkness like a tiny vampire scared of turning to dust. On the underside of the rock was some webbing---perhaps the remnants of an egg sac from a long departed momma occupant. You might also notice that there were some crustose lichens occupying the upper side of the rock...and many tiny plant roots underneath. The rock is providing habitat services for any number of organisms. I will now have to stop thinking of it as an eyesore by the road.

So, get out today and find your own flipping rock. Be a naturalist in your own yard. Tell us what you find! Feel free to also check out the Flickr pool for this event or the #rockflip tag on Twitter for other posts and pics.

3 comments:

dAwN said...

nice post! thanks for reminding me about rock flippin day! We are out in Eugene Oregon now..will find a rock or two to flip.

naturalnotes3 said...

I really enjoyed this post and the visit to your blog. Nicely done!

The Science Goddess said...

Thank you for visiting! Y'all come back now, ya' hear? :)