First of all, in this weather and time of day the worms are supposed to be below the surface. And second... it was moving at top speed for a worm. I've never seen a worm move as fast as this one and it looked really bizarre.
I leaned in closer to get a better look and realized that it was running away from a long skinny beetle larva with razor sharp teeth.
This miniscule insect was attacking the worm!
I called out to my friends. "Holy crap, come look at this."
We all gathered around and watched as the little larva at a significantly smaller size would latch onto the worm and tear chunks of flesh off. It was a gruesome battle that continued on for several minutes.
Towards the end it looked as though the Larva was trying to pull the worm down underground but it eventually gave up. Suddenly, it scurried under the dirt and left the worm to dry in the hot sun.
The worm was still alive so we picked it up and placed it in the shade of a shrub in the garden where it could recuperate and stay moist.
This whole sequence reminded me that small creatures like worms and insects often provide some of the best opportunities to practice nature observation. It's extremely rare to get to watch a hunting coyote from start to finish but with the smaller critters there is a constant stream of stories to be gathered all around us if we can just look closely enough.
As a tracker, I'm always looking for the larger stories that are connected to the wildlife signs that I find. Usually when I see a string of tracks from a large mammal, I only get a snippet of the story because it takes place over such a large area. I love being reminded that with things like insects there are entire stories and lives written in just a few square feet.
They are some of the best teachers and really fun to watch.