Saturday, June 30, 2012

Looking Close

 [Huge Swamp Darner, hanging in a very typical pose along the East Creek Trail in Belleplain State Forest, NJ.]

There are degrees of looking close.

First, there's looking at all. With naturalists in the making, a lot of times the first thing you notice is birds. You may not know what they are, but you begin to see them. Then, looking closer, you identify them, and maybe learn something about them.

Next you might notice a bright butterfly, and might want to learn what kind it is. Then you might look more carefully, and realize holy smoke, there's a boatload of other creatures out there to learn about. For me, the next step beyond butterflies has become dragonflies. And looking closer still, to learn about their behavior and ecology.

 [Female Swamp Darner ovipositing (egg-laying) on a rotten log in a Belleplain Swamp, a swamp that will flood again for the next stage in this bug's life. Swamp Darner eggs will hatch into nymphs that grow up to be dominant predators in their aquatic system, until one day the nymph climbs above the water, skin splits open, and out comes the 3-inch plus adult.]

 [Eastern Pondhawk male, Belleplain again. I floated the photo to a few keen naturalist friends, asking what the tiny red balls on the animal's thorax could be - we're not yet sure, but they could be parasitic mites. Looking closer still.]

[Female Eastern Pondhawk. This is a fairly common species, a good one to learn. And a reminder: just like with birds, there are dragonflies where males and females look quite different!]

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