Bugged by the Otherworldy

There was a time when insects bugged me. Apparently, I’m long beyond that for though I morn the loss of snow and tracking season, I can’t wait for insect season to begin. Ah yes, that is, except for the blackflies, aka Maine’s state bird, or so they should be. But even the blackflies I can endure because I know that they provide food for actual birds and for other insects such as dragonflies. By now, you’re probably thinking I’m about to present a series of dragonfly shots. Not today, but that day will be upon us very soon for in the natural world everything seems to be on time and there is no such thing as The Pause.

Pause, however, I did beside another wetland setting today in a spot where my boots slowly sunk down into the sphagnum moss for the longer I stood the deeper they went, and the stoneflies crawled, their veined wings showing off a stained-glassed window naturally.

If you look closely at the tip of the abdomen that curves out from under the wings, you may see the cerci or paired appendages. They are one of the clues to identification and sighting stoneflies is a great thing because they are intolerant of water pollution.

Of course, when one is looking one sees . . . caddisflies everywhere, though because I was in a different wetland habitat today as compared to yesterday’s vernal pool journey, the shelter of choice differed. Notice how this caddisfly’s home resembles the equisetum upon which it climbs.

But at the risk of boring you with too many caddisfly photos, I moved on (after taking too many caddisfly photos). About an inch to the left, that is. And that’s when I spied a mayfly larva with cerci of three. The thing with mayflies–they can have two or three tails. At this stage mayflies are called nymphs or naiads.

Eventually I made my way over to some false hellebores and what should I spy at the tip of one? A teenager! Well, not exactly, but the subimago or dun form of a newly emerged dragonfly. Notice the cloudiness of its wings–a clue that it isn’t an imago or adult. Mayflies are the only insects that I know of which also molt as adults. Once the final molt occurs, the clear-winged adult will live for a day or two, mate, lay eggs, and then become part of the detritus upon which they fed as nymphs.

Checking the next false hellebore was worth it not only to embrace the design of the ribbed leaves, but hiding within–yes, another subimago.

Again, the cloudy wings were the giveaway.

At a different spot along the water’s edge, a giant of sorts scanned the scene in hopes of snagging a meal. Yesterday I looked for giant water bugs. Today I found not one, but two. My next hope is that someday I’ll get to see a male carrying the nursery his mate deposits upon his back.

But then another sight forced me back into the world of the mayflies for I spotted the exuviae or cast skin of . . . a mayfly larva. Can you see where it split at the top (bottom actually) of the structure.

And just a few inches away, the one who had just emerged from aquatic life . . .

found its feet and began to march toward a new life . . .

as it tried out its balance in the terrestrial world.

Being bugged by insects is one of my favorite ways to be. Even if there are some who annoy or predate, they are all still worthy of our wonder for they each bring something to the natural world–otherworldly or otherwise.

Wetland Wonders

wetland 1

The Greater Lovell Land Trust’s Tuesday Tracking group returned to the wetland at the John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge today. It’s one of those places that I could spend hours upon hours exploring and still only see a smidgeon of what is there. I’m overwhelmed when I walk into a store filled with stuff, but completely at home in a place like this where life and death happen and the “merchandise” changes daily.

insect

Walking across the snow was this small insect. So . . . we were in a wetland. Tomorrow will be April 1–no kidding. The insect is about an inch long. It has long antennae and a pair of cerci or appendages at the posterior end of its abdomen. I’d say we found a common stonefly nymph. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

artists 1

On first glimpse, this may look like a pile of dried grasses and twigs.

artists's conk?

But stepping in for a closer look reveals what I believe is an artist’s conk. An old artist’s conk. We didn’t cut it off, but apparently you can age one by cutting it and counting the layers–much the same way you can age a tree by counting the number of rings.

old beaver lodge

There’s evidence of beaver work throughout the sanctuary, but none of it is recent. So . . . my friend decided to play Queen of the Lodge.

dam crossing

We crossed Boulder Brook via an old beaver dam–one-by-one in the name of caution.

lobster lichenlobster 3

 Color draws us in for closer inspection. I’m betting on Cinnabar-red Polypore (Pycnoporus cinnabarinus) as this one’s ID. If I learn otherwise, I’ll let you know.

lungwort

Remember this lungwort I shared last week in my Island Hopping blog?

Lungwort

Same species. Same tree. Nature–worth wondering about.

myatery 1

Then there was the mysterious event.

mystery 3

Very fine tags dangle from the upper edge of the scraped bark. Not the work of a deer, beaver or porcupine. Not a hare or little brown thing. Maybe a bird? No holes, just the fine layer of outer bark delicately scraped off.

deer scrape

Here’s a deer scrape as a contrast.

tree within tree

For this next wonder, you’ll have to look closely inside the hollow yellow birch. Peer to the left of the hole toward the rear. Think vertical.

tree 2

Do you see it? It’s in the center of this photo.

tree 3

And here it is further up in the hollowed out tree. A tree within a tree. Another yellow birch or birch root growing up through the center of this dead snag. Life and death. Together. One within the other.

spider

This guy was dashing across the snow, but had the decency to pose for a photo op. Given that he wasn’t wearing boots, I don’t blame him for running along.

crossing dam again

And suddenly, we realized we’d spent over three hours exploring and it was time to head back over the beaver dam.

white pine

On the trail again, we paused to admire spring growth on a small white pine–a mini candelabra.

Thanks for wandering along and wondering my way.