Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Chance of Passing Thunderstorms

               Just as my husband cast out a line, a deep rumble sounded in the east. We looked east to see masses of blue-gray cumulus clouds. Thus far, it had been a hot, sunny day. There was just enough wind to make it pleasant on the dock where we sat.
                “Looks like Culver Lake is in for a storm,” I said. That larger lake lies east of us, across route 206, and, after all, most weather comes from the west. I figured the storm had bypassed us.
                Within minutes we felt rain drops. My husband reeled in his line and began gathering things—towels, glasses, the newspaper—to leave the dock.
                “We’re in bathing suits. Are you afraid you’ll get wet?” I asked.
                He didn’t have to answer. I got my answer from the lightening streaked sky. Then huge drops of rain splattered everywhere. We ran for shelter and watched the trees bow and shake, the lake churn, and our neighbor’s house disappear in the mist and gloom.
                Ten minutes later—again from the east—sunshine lit the treetops. The lake, suddenly back into view, calmed down to reflect a clear blue sky.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Curious Fish – Majestic Birds

I lower my toes to test the water. It is comfortably warm, so I step in up to my calves. Immediately three fish—the largest about five inches long—come to check me out. I can’t identify most fish, but I think they must be sunnies. Sunfish are curious and will nibble at almost anything. Hoping they won’t try to nibble my feet, I check them out.

Bluegill - Wikipedia Image
These may be Bluegills.  I get a net, hoping to catch one and put it in a bucket so I can compare it to pictures in my fish book.

My feet and the net go back into the water. A bigger brother to the small fry shows up. He’s got to be eight inches long. I make a swoop with the net and he’s gone. I forgot that water refracts an image. I must have aimed for the wrong spot. Besides, my reflexes are much slower than his.

Great Blue Heron - US Fish & Wildlife Photo
Later, when both my husband and I are swimming, we look up to see two large, majestic birds flying slowly and gracefully toward us. Each with a wingspan of more than five feet, they dominate the sky. We hear the wind in their wings as they pass overhead and watch as they touch down at the near end of the lake. Now we can see the blue-gray feathers, long legs and necks of this Blue Heron pair. Just as there is only one swan couple on the lake, this is the only pair of herons. But I’d not seen the two together before. I consider it a lucky event whenever either makes an appearance.  After their brief visit in the shallows, we get an encore performance as the pair take to the skies, winging back up the lake.

Monday, July 2, 2012


“Look at this creature on my arm,” said my husband. He was floating in the lake, upheld by a purple noodle, a few feet from the dock. “It looks like a tiny dragon or a lobster.”
I swam over. The bug on his arm—yes, definitely a bug—was tan, had six legs, and an incredible thin tail (or other body part?). It was no more than an inch long. I couldn’t identify it for certain. The bug soon jumped ship –or arm.

Later, we found another of those bugs on the dock. “But it’s dead,” said my husband.

I saw a couple of empty exoskeletons of dragonflies attached to the edge of the dock. I had researched them the previous year. Their bodies are also tan, but wider, shorter and shield-shaped. 
I began to wonder. Perhaps this “bug” is the nymph form of a damselfly? Although the damselflies look much like dragonflies in flight, the damselfly has a narrower tail and folds its wings when it settles. The dragonfly keeps its double wings open. But could the nymph stage of these related insects—both of order Odonata—be so different?

The next day I found two dozen empty exoskeletons clinging to the edge of the dock. And four pairs of delicate, electric blue damselflies flew in tandem, just skirting the water. “Those MUST be the empty shells of the damselflies’ nymph stage,” I told my husband.

A little research on the Internet proved the hypothesis. I remain amazed that those beautiful blue insects emerged from such an unattractive, wingless, and tinier shell. I have watched a Monarch Butterfly emerge from its chrysalis and then pump up its wings from two centimeters to their full length—truly an ordinary miracle. I hope someday to be lucky enough to see a damselfly emerge from its exoskeleton. Till then, I can’t do better than this You Tube Video: