Thursday, April 18, 2013

From my perch

On my perch, above the dance. 

Spring is chugging right along here around Boston. It’s been terrifically busy, and I’m not getting out to the woods nearly as much as I’d like. Yesterday, I peeled myself away from the computer at work and took a walk to my favorite little vernal pool near the office though.

What a treat! The sun was shining, my jacket was too hot, and I was able to spend fifteen or twenty minutes doing nothing but watching stuff. Some years back, a sizable red maple growing at the edge of the pool toppled over in the direction of the pool. The trunk itself is about ten inches in diameter, and lies, now horizontal, about three feet above the water’s surface. Enough of the root mass is still buried that the tree seems to be doing just fine, and several branches have started growing straight up as though they thought they were growing from the ground. It’s beginning to flower.

I got myself settled out on the trunk, about ten feet from shore. I was perched there, about three feet above the surface of the water, looking into about three feet of water. The first thing to catch my eye were the fairies, doing their lovely dance, lazing about, in and out of shadow, looking for love or to be left alone, or whatever fairy shrimp look for. It brought to mind Henry Thoreau’s observation on April 16, 1855, of the “remarkably forked tail-fin” of what he thought were dragonfly larvae but what were almost without doubt fairy shrimp.

Soon, big predaceous diving beetles, backswimmers, and water striders grabbed my attention. I was fascinated by the behavior of the large beetles; they were cruising around but keeping to the shadow cast by branches, staying out of the sun-lit water column. I was really curious to see if any would crash the party and grab a fairy shrimp, but alas, didn’t see any acts of predation.

After I’d sat still for several minutes, the forest started to forget that I was there, and a few wood frogs began their clacking calling. Silly boys, they’re probably going to have to wait until next year. The great mass of wood frog eggs have already begun to hatch at the west edge of the pool.

Soon enough (too soon, really), spring will be over, and we’ll be screaming head-long into summer. There’s still a lot of spring to observe yet, though, if I can just make the time to get out. I hope you’re getting out more than I, and find a nice perch from which to watch.

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