The opportunity was golden. Lakes Environmental Association’s Executive Director invited me to tag along with Dr. Rick Van de Poll as he conducted a Comprehensive Ecological Assessment at the Highland Lake Preserve. I couldn’t wait to be in Rick’s presence again, for he’s a walking naturalist encyclopedia. But . . . I’d been late in responding to an e-mail and didn’t know what time to meet him.
And so this morning I went in search. I located his truck parked just off the road at the northern end of the lake. I was certain I’d find him despite the fact that the preserve encompasses 325 acres and doesn’t have any trails.
It does, however, have an old logging road that bisects the property. At a sunny spot which had once served as a log landing, I realized I wasn’t alone. A female Eastern pondhawk dragonfly graced the airspace. Being a skimmer, she paused frequently so I could take a closer look at her markings and delight in her bright coloration.
While her mate, whom I did not see, is powder blue, she was florescent green with black markings. And the stigmas toward the tip of her wings were pale brown. Did you know that Eastern pondhawks are known to be vicious predators and will even catch dragonflies similar in size–sometimes even other pondhawks? Wow!
Because I spent long moments at the old landing, I noticed a pattern in the sandy substrate and followed it to a snapping turtle egg laying spot. Something, possibly a raccoon had done what they do best–dug up and eaten some of the eggs. My hope is that it didn’t get all of them. But what made me wonder was the location, for this location seemed a distance from the water. How far do snapping turtles travel to lay eggs?
Also along the road, I periodically encountered hoverflies hovering. I’ve watched members of the species in my garden where they feed on nectar and pollen–known as nectaring. Hoverflies mimic the look of bees and wasps, but they don’t sting, which is good news.
Ever so slowly, with many pregnant pauses between movement, I made my way to the wetland that flows into the lake. And what should I spy? A snapping turtle sunning itself.
As I listened to the chorus of bullfrogs and red-winged blackbirds, I also noted the beaver lodge. And I heard something in the water, but never determined what it was. Could it have been Rick? Maybe.
Following the shoreline, I suddenly found myself in the company of a female ebony jewelwing damselfly. She was absolutely gorgeous with her dark wings topped with white stigmas and green and bronze body.
Continuing on, a pile of scat under an old hemlock caught my attention (are you surprised?)–porcupine scat. I looked inside, but no one was home. In fact, it had been a while–maybe since winter that anyone had been in residence.
At last it was time for me to head out of the preserve because I needed to head to Lovell for today’s start of the nature walk the Greater Lovell Land Trust provides each week for the Recreation Program. I made my way back to the logging road and followed it out. But again, along the way I was forced to pause. First, it was for a garter snake who I suspected was waiting for the sun to shine upon it. The snake never moved and I wondered if the leaves had served as a blanket and provided it a wee bit of warmth overnight.
And then I paused again to admire the pondhawk one more time and had the honor of seeing her catch an insect. I couldn’t tell what she was eating, though it looked like a large fly, but she gobbled it quickly.
I never did find Rick–my plans not being the best laid, but despite that I was tickled with my findings and knew it was time well spent. The opportunity was indeed golden.