Oasis of Calm

(A Blog for a Heatwave)

We’ve all seen those films – some poor unfortunate soul, staggering across miles of sand dunes, underneath the baking heat of the relentless desert sun, desperately hoping what he spies across the horizon isn’t a mirage but…an oasis.

Oasis are quite literally life savers, providing blessed respite from the harsh terrain that surrounds them.  They are stopping off points for hot, weary travellers and roads crossing deserts are routed from one oasis to another, with towns and even cities springing up around them.  They occur naturally, where water comes to the surface to form a pool or lake; they have also been artificially created by digging down into the aquafer to access that vital water.

What life might be lurking in this desert haven?  If we peer into the water, we’re likely to spot a little turtle paddling about under the surface.  Pond turtles aren’t sociable – they like their own company best and only tolerate others when it comes to mating season, when they lay their eggs in sandy burrows, where the next generation of independent little swimmers emerge.

Bats may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an oasis, but they are commonly found here, munching their way through mosquitos and other flying insects of an evening, when they emerge to fly and feed.  Some, like the Mexican long tongued bat, feed on the nectar of cacti, making them an important pollinator.  During the heat of the day, bats will find a cool place to hang out, such as a shady palm tree perhaps – only mad bats go out in the noon day sun!

Bats aren’t the only creatures gracing the oasis skies – there are many desert birds here too:  one cute little critter is the burrowing owl.  These wise fowl head underground to keep cool – they take over a vacated burrow that has been previously dug by a helpful former occupant, such as a prairie dog.  The owls set about making some rather unusual home improvements – they put a welcoming mat of dung outside the burrow entrance – whilst this might not seem very savoury, it’s smart thinking, because it invites insects to dinner – the owls’ dinner that is!

Insects are also oasis dwellers and all the usual suspects are about: ants, termites, and beetles, as well as mosquitos and flies aplenty

– but hang on – what’s that strange creature lurking around? Is it a scorpion? Is it a spider? Nope – it’s a solpugid!  (a what?!)  Rather confusingly known as camel spiders or sun spiders or wind scorpions, these guys are neither (although they do look like a little of both!) and they belong to the arachnid family.  Whilst they might only choose to use 6 of their 8 legs for running, that doesn’t stop them achieving an incredible speed and although they’re not venomous, their formidable jaws, armed with teeth and powered with strong muscles, make short work of their unfortunate prey.  Their dinner detectors are sensitive hairs on their underside; whilst other hairs on top help to deflect the heat of the sun. Despite internet sensationalism, camel spiders don’t attack camels or humans – think they’re running after you?  Well, they are! But only for the shade of your shadow – a reason they probably like to hang out with the camels too!

Speaking of those iconic ships of the desert, we’re bound to find a camel or two at an oasis.  These chaps are perfectly adapted to thriving in all that aridity, famously being able to exist weeks without taking a drink.  If you’re thinking they store water in their humps – forget it, they don’t!  The humps are actually made of fat, which is a store of nutrition for the camel and cleverly also acts as a heat regulator – fatty acids in the hump help the camel to adjust its body temperature to its environment – neat! 

Their feet are designed to spread their weight evenly and prevent them sinking when the going is soft.  They have long eyelashes too, to stop that pesky sand getting into their eyes and can close their nostrils to stop anything getting up their noses!  Often with a reputation for grumpiness, camels are, in fact, highly intelligent and a good judge of character – they won’t take any nonsense – so if they decide you’re doing something they think is unacceptable – you’ll quickly know about it by way of some swiftly well-aimed spit!  You’ve been warned!

As well as this host of wildlife, there are many plants that grow at oasis – palms, figs, oranges and lemons, grasses, cotton and cereal crops – but there’s also another plant rolling into town – the tumbleweed.  These plants quickly grow and form seed heads and then detach themselves from their roots and just go wherever the wind might take them, scattering their seeds along the way, they’re the true botanical desert nomads that call into the oasis regularly.

With all this going on, it seems like oasis really do bring the desert to life.

Published by candy hunter writer

Self publishing author - Childrens books. First book - Chuckle with Chumleigh; recently launched - Chumleigh and the Festive Secret and Chuckle with Chumleigh Again - available on Amazon.

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