Monday, June 29, 2015

Everybody Eats (Again)

This isn't for the squeamish.

Then again, neither is the natural order of things.

Eastern Pondhawk eating a male mating with a female Violet Dancer.
(I apologize for the video quality and size.)



Amazingly, the female survived, with the male's abdomen
still firmly clamped to her.



Saturday, June 27, 2015

If every day ended with bells

I'd be a happy person.

Bells and woods.

After summer rain.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Angry Eye

means discomfort, drops, headache, and no photowalk. Alas.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cirque de la Mare

The athletic, acrobatic Unicorn Clubtail obelisks on water!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Emergence


Witness the exuviae --
remains of final moults
testaments to different life
underground or underwater;
imagine the struggle
of cicada or dragonfly
that climbs up to air
that breathes new air
that crawls and flies.
The strength
emergence requires,
an innate
animal confidence,
courage even.

Then witness
those among us
suffocating
in prejudice
drowning
in ignorance
who do not
struggle or emerge
into new form.
Now picture
what they
leave behind.

I once feared
insect shells.
But that was before
I knew the true
locus of terror.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Yet Another Tally

Yet Another Tally of Emergence
Common Green Darner
Fragile Forktail
Common Baskettail
Springtime Darner
Blue Corporal
Carolina Saddlebags
Lancet Clubtail
Common Whitetail
Azure Bluet
Southern Spreadwing
Calico Pennant
Comet Darner
Violet Dancer
Painted Skimmer
Black Saddlebags
Spangled Skimmer
Double-striped Bluet
Skimming Bluet
Orange Bluet
Citrine Forktail
Doubled-ringed Pennant
Eastern Pondhawk
Spangled Skimmer
Ebony Jewelwing
Stream Cruiser
Blue Dasher
Swamp Spreadwing
Amber-winged Spreadwing
Lilypad Forktail
Golden-winged Skimmer
Banded Pennant
Stream Bluet
Powdered Bluet
Slaty Skimmer
Prince Baskettail
Gray Petaltail
Southern Sprite
Widow Skimmer
Sweetflag Spreadwing
Unicorn Clubtail
Eastern Amberwing
Great Blue Skimmer
Spotted Spreadwing
Autumn Meadowhawk

Old Friends

sure signs of summer: 

bluebird training in the back yard


Hackberry Emperor visiting the screen door


first appearance of the Autumn Meadowhawk


Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Day Unlike Any Other

I tried to save this drowning Blue Dasher because I could.


While I was struggling to reach her with the longest branch I could find, while I was letting her balance on my finger and clean her face, while I admired her wild beauty and felt her light touch and knew her trust, I thought of the nine people murdered in Charleston, and of their families and friends and community, and of us Americans all, in a mad country, and was glad I could help at least one victim of unknown violence.

May all rest in peace.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Lighting Out for the Territory

Before leaving for the shoe store 45 minutes away, I read this, "Everybody should be quiet near a little stream and listen."

Halfway there, I pulled down to the Taylor Creek Greenway.  


And then I thought, Yes, and look.

I needed shoes, but I needed the light, and the little stream even more.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Yea, Sewanee's Right!

Before I met her, I noticed LB in the University Choir spring concert. Standing center on the risers, she sang out with such clarity and emotional commitment and joy. I listened to the beautiful music with two selves, one hearing and one experiencing the music with her as she sang it.

I was surprised and delighted when she joined the faculty where I taught, and even more so when she wanted a ride to and from school to Sewanee once a week to sing in the Community Chorale. We'd gossip, and chat, and stop for Frostees. Over the time I traveled and worked with her, I watched her grow as a teacher and a person.

She left and succeeded in a far more competitive school and market, but more importantly she found personal happiness. I remember several stumbles and challenges shared in our journeys, and I rejoice now in the professional life and family she has made.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

And In the Category of Learning Something New Every Day . . .

AHA!

But first, the background.

On June 5, I photographed a female UBD (Unidentified Brown Damselfly). I searched my guidebooks, couldn't find anything like it to match county records, and posted photos on Facebook asking for advice. Expert Ed Lam wrote, "I think that ovipositor is big enough for a Sweetflag." W-h-a-t? What's a Sweetflag? Sure enough I found it in his book, and I even found it in Tennessee, but not in my county.



So. I added another species to my tally.

On June 13, I photographed another UBD, this time a male, and thought (smugly) perhaps this is a Sweetflag. Again, I posted photos and asked for advice. First Marion Dobbs offered, "I hope Ed Lam or Dennis Paulson will speak up on this one. Hard to see the paraprocts well, but they don't seen slender enough for Swamp. Not sure about wing to body proportions either. The thing that immediately captures my attention is the dark spot, or spots, on the lower thorax. Maybe Spotted Spreadwing, though, again, paraprocts are suspect. I think Sweetflag and maybe Southern can have a single spot. Lam also mentions pale rear of head for Spotted and often for Sweetflag. And then there's pattern of pruinosity! May not be helpful at this age. Devil is in the details. I'll be anxious to hear a definitive ruling." Then Dennis Paulson wrote, "To me it looks perfect for an immature male Spotted Spreadwing. Paraprocts are shorter than in the others that were mentioned, quite large ventral thoracic spots, very fine antehumeral stripe, jagged lower edge to the broad antehumeral stripe." Ed Lam "liked" this post, so I think the experts have weighed in. To which I thought, W-h-a-t? I found Spotted in Ed's book and I found it in Tennessee, but not my county.


Now back to the AHA! I realize I have been going about this wrong. I have unnecessarily limited my ID research to this and surrounding counties. Now I see the error of my ways: my county first; surrounding counties second; state and north Georgia and Alabama third; then the books and everything in the genus.

Meanwhile, that makes three county records (including the Unicorn Clubtail) in 8 days, making 36 dragonfly species and 25 damselfly species I've identified on the Domain.

I am well pleased.

Another Tally of EmergenceCommon Green Darner
Fragile Forktail
Common Baskettail
Springtime Darner
Blue Corporal
Carolina Saddlebags
Lancet Clubtail
Common Whitetail
Azure Bluet
Southern Spreadwing
Calico Pennant
Comet Darner
Violet Dancer
Painted Skimmer
Black Saddlebags
Spangled Skimmer
Double-striped Bluet
Skimming Bluet
Orange Bluet
Citrine Forktail
Doubled-ringed Pennant
Eastern Pondhawk
Spangled Skimmer
Ebony Jewelwing
Stream Cruiser
Blue Dasher
Swamp Spreadwing
Amber-winged Spreadwing
Lilypad Forktail
Golden-winged Skimmer
Banded Pennant
Stream Bluet
Powdered Bluet
Slaty Skimmer
Prince Baskettail
Gray Petaltail
Southern Sprite
Widow Skimmer
Sweetflag Spreadwing
Unicorn Clubtail
Eastern Amberwing
Great Blue Skimmer
Spotted Spreadwing

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Everybody Eats

Only some of us get to do it sitting down,
without being blown up and down and sideways.
And my food doesn't generally squirm when I eat it.


Friday, June 12, 2015

R. Hood, Stalking the domain to find uncommonly fascinating odonates.

Dare to immerse yourself in the wild.

Where things sting, creep, crawl, fall from leaves and limbs, and fly.

Icky, creepy crawlies against which you must protect yourself.

Beautiful, aesthetically pleasing creatures which please and thrill.

This bugging kit is guaranteed to bring pleasure and a modicum of protection: socks (pull these over the cuffs); insect-treated pants; long-sleeved, high-collared, button-down cotton shirt (for ventilation); cell phone; camera; extra battery; lightweight, foldable, waterproof bag; Gore-text rain jacket with four pockets for storage.

Not pictured: walking shoes, whether athletic trainers or boots (the choice is yours), and self-selected, brimmed sun hat.

Practical but stylish: prepare to dare Mother Nature!


(with thanks and apologies to J. Peterman)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Tally Redux

Common Green Darner
Fragile Forktail
Common Baskettail
Springtime Darner
Blue Corporal
Carolina Saddlebags
Lancet Clubtail
Common Whitetail
Azure Bluet
Southern Spreadwing
Calico Pennant
Comet Darner
Violet Dancer
Painted Skimmer
Black Saddlebags
Spangled Skimmer
Double-striped Bluet
Skimming Bluet
Orange Bluet
Citrine Forktail
Doubled-ringed Pennant
Eastern Pondhawk
Spangled Skimmer
Ebony Jewelwing
Stream Cruiser
Blue Dasher
Swamp Spreadwing
Amber-winged Spreadwing
Lilypad Forktail
Golden-winged Skimmer
Banded Pennant
Stream Bluet
Powdered Bluet
Slaty Skimmer
Addendum May 27 -- No 35
Prince Baskettail
Addendum May 28 -- No 36
Gray Petaltail
Addendum May 30 -- No 37
Southern Sprite
Addendum June 3 -- No 38
Widow Skimmer
[June 5]
[possible Sweetflag Spreadwing -- advice of Ed Lam]
June 24 -- no 39
Unicorn Clubtail
Eastern Amberwing
June 11
Great Blue Skimmer

Only for You

Great Blue Skimmer --
your blue/green eyes
your white frons
your young dark red and yellow abdomen
your mature powder blue abdomen
your wide wide wings
your powerful flight --
today I only have eyes for you.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Or the Mediterranean Blue of a Southern Sprite's Eyes

Colors passing through us

Purple as tulips in May, mauve
into lush velvet, purple
as the stain blackberries leave
on the lips, on the hands,
the purple of ripe grapes
sunlit and warm as flesh.

Every day I will give you a color,
like a new flower in a bud vase
on your desk. Every day
I will paint you, as women
color each other with henna
on hands and on feet.

Red as henna, as cinnamon,
as coals after the fire is banked,
the cardinal in the feeder,
the roses tumbling on the arbor
their weight bending the wood
the red of the syrup I make from petals.

Orange as the perfumed fruit
hanging their globes on the glossy tree,
orange as pumpkins in the field,
orange as butterflyweed and the monarchs
who come to eat it, orange as my
cat running lithe through the high grass.

Yellow as a goat’s wise and wicked eyes,
yellow as a hill of daffodils,
yellow as dandelions by the highway,
yellow as butter and egg yolks,
yellow as a school bus stopping you,
yellow as a slicker in a downpour.

Here is my bouquet, here is a sing
song of all the things you make
me think of, here is oblique
praise for the height and depth
of you and the width too.
Here is my box of new crayons at your feet.

Green as mint jelly, green
as a frog on a lily pad twanging,
the green of cos lettuce upright
about to bolt into opulent towers,
green as Grand Chartreuse in a clear
glass, green as wine bottles.

Blue as cornflowers, delphiniums,
bachelors’ buttons. Blue as Roquefort,
blue as Saga. Blue as still water.
Blue as the eyes of a Siamese cat.
Blue as shadows on new snow, as a spring
azure sipping from a puddle on the blacktop.

Cobalt as the midnight sky
when day has gone without a trace
and we lie in each other’s arms
eyes shut and fingers open
and all the colors of the world
pass through our bodies like strings of fire.


Monday, June 8, 2015

Forest and Tree

In the last several days, a number of folks have posted to our community email system about their sightings of large rattlesnakes on roads, paths, and lawns. Caution, everyone advises; it's that time of year.

I wonder how many snakes we all walk right by without ever seeing them. At least, rattlesnakes give crackling warning: Leave me alone!

I could be more cautious in my own ambles, as I sometimes miss the forest for the trees or the trees for the forest.

Today, concentrating on the ground and ground cover as I headed down to the boat launch area at Lake Dimmick, a loud fluttering and splashing of water startled me. I had startled her -- a wood duck -- and her brood. She took off in one direction, almost flying but in the water, and they paddled in another. The whole time she called out oo-eek, oo-eek in alarm to her ducklings: hide, get out of here! Clever that she distracted me with her wheeling swim and racket, while the little ones quietly moved toward a large limb licking the lake.


As for me, I turned and walked slowly back up the hill, feeling a bit guilty for not seeing them first, hoping they'd find one another once I was gone.

Later, at the small pond further up the road, I was so busy sneaking up on one of the two sunning Unicorn Clubtails that I nearly walked into the only up-close Carolina Saddlebags in tandem that I've ever seen. In the bare branches where I've watched Amber-winged Spreadwings, Slaty Skimmers, Spangled Skimmers, and Blue Dashers, there they were: the male clasping the female, both pausing long enough (to catch their balance? their breath?) for me to snap several pictures. Previously, I've seen them when yoked flying fast over water, dipping low, so she could separate and tap the water and then so he could grab her and go again.


Looking is hard, and remains hard even with experience, especially because astonishment everywhere awaits notice.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Surfacing

The frog, yellowed like an old photograph or isinglass, twisted toward the surface -- spinning, falling, reaching. 

Something, I thought, is eating it.

Then I saw the unmistakable shape of the fearsome snapping turtle. I didn't move (silly of me since I wasn't threatened), but when it rose to the surface, first with only the nose and then one eye and the nose, something slick and whitish floated from its jaw, and I felt myself sliding, pierced by that great eye, before it even saw me.

When it did, he disappeared without a splash.


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Still Here

For the South

I hate your hills white with dogwood
or pink with redbud in spring
as if you invented hope, as if
in the middle of red clay,
limestone outcroppings,
and oak trees dead with fungus
something slight and beautiful
should make us smile.

I hate the way honeysuckle drapes
fences, blooms in the ditch   
where everyone dumps garbage;
the evening air sweet with cedar
and fields of burley;
the way irises and buttercups
mark the old dimensions of a house
destroyed a hundred years ago;
how a span of Queen Anne’s lace
rocks the whole moon, and the sumac
runs dark against the hill.

I hate the drawl, the lazy voice
saying I’ve been away so long
I sound like I’m from nowhere;
the old hand gathering snowballs or peonies
or forking up an extra dish of greens,
bitter, just the way I like them.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Appetites

1.
I returned to the small pond today, hoping to see the Unicorn Clubtail. I did, but it dodged me and my camera. I am ravenous for new odonates.

2.
One new sight I wish I hadn't seen was an emergent Comet Darner, whose abdomen never fully emerged from the exuvia. All of the mature color had already set it, indicating the darner had been there some time. I wonder if I will see it again tomorrow, or if, by then, someone will have eaten it.

3.
This Amber-winged Spreadwing snagged breakfast and ate it quickly as I filmed it. All gone within just a couple of minutes. He looks small and thin, but the fuel he requires for the hard work of flying and mating is large, as his appetite.


Thursday, June 4, 2015

So Early in the Season

but in three hours today at Lake Cheston and the small Day Lake Road pond, I saw 24 species: Comet Darner, Common Green Darner, Carolina Saddlebags, Southern Sprite, Eastern Amberwing, Common Whitetail, Common Baskettail, Eastern Pondhawk, Widow Skimmer, Spangled Skimmer, Golden-winged Skimmer, Slaty Skimmer, Blue Corporal, Blue Dasher, Lancet Clubtail, Fragile Forktail, Violet Dancer, Powdered Dancer, Calico Pennant, Banded Pennant, Double-ringed Pennant, Azure Bluet, Amber-winged Spreadwing, and one county record -- the Unicorn Clubtail.


This is going to be a very good year indeed.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Luck of Color or Light

Sometimes, not often, I see a dragonfly or beetle or what-have-you settled on something so perfectly suited to its color that I feel a bit like Robert Frost
         What brought the kindred spider to that height,
         Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
         What but design . . .? --
         If design govern in a thing so small.

Immature male Spangled Skimmer on blackberry bush.

Other times, more often, the light is so soft and suggestive that I feel when stooping or bending I might be stepping into a painting.

Unknown blossom at Lake Cheston

I count myself lucky -- because of color and because of light.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

With Apologies to William Blake

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
On the deck in bright sunlight,
What sprinter could possibly
Keep up with thee?


I mean, these guys are fast. They stand perfectly still, tic themselves into a different position (often a distance away), sit perfectly still, and then, poof they're gone!

One fact is mighty impressive: "The fastest can sprint at up to 5 miles per hour, covering 120 if its body lengths in a single second. For comparison, Usain Bolt covers just 5 body lengths per second. To match the beetle, he'd have to run at 480 miles per hour." 

For more startling information and a great video, please see Ed Yong's Meet the Predator That Becomes Blind When It Runs after Prey on the National Geographic website.

Monday, June 1, 2015

No Ordinary Trip to Lowe's

Why go the easy way? I thought, so I bypassed the exit for Lowe's, drove a few miles further, and stopped at the Marion County Park to see what's flying. No outstanding odes (Prince Baskettail, Black Saddlebags, two damselflies, and Eastern Amberwings). 

The main attraction arrived not by air, but by water: a Canada Goose parade, adults in front and rear and 17 young ones of many different ages between them. They moved like an adorable military formation from one shoreline to the one where I stood, paused for bathing, then skittered and swam off around down the shore. I assume the adults were designated babysitters for the goslings, who dutifully swam in a line between their protectors, so when I came home, I did a little research. Here's what the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has to say:

"Soon after they hatch, goslings begin pecking at small objects, and spend most of their time sleeping and feeding. They remain with their parents constantly, though sometimes 'gang broods' form, especially in more southern latitudes. These can include at least two broods, and sometimes five or more, that travel, feed, and loaf together, accompanied by at least one adult."

Honestly, I know that Canada Goose flocks can be obnoxious to home owners and others living along bodies of water, and I admit that I had to avoid quite a few of their little packages in the grass as I searched for odes, but . . . who can resist the charms of a "gang brood"?