Dragonflies Grounded due to Bad Weather

Group of kids pond dipping for eggs and larvae

Photo: David Ozab

Damp weather doesn’t deter determined dragonfly hunters in Eugene


Family Nature Quest: Dragons Of The Air” event a success in spite of rain

July should be the perfect month for a dragonfly hunt: warm, sunny, but not too hot. The nymphs have spent the last year or so lingering in the ponds, and are now ready to sprout their wings and take to the air for a few weeks to mate and lay eggs.

But on this day–Saturday, July 16–it’s raining, so intrepid dragonfly hunter and Nearby Nature Weekend Coordinator Kate Self is ready with Plan B.

“Dragonflies actually spend most of their life in the water, so we’re going to be pond dipping for the nymphs and all the little invertebrates that live in the ponds,” Self says.

It’s a necessary adjustment, as Kate explains to the young army of insect hunters gathered around her. She holds up a picture of a dragonfly, pointing to the wings.

“These little wings are pretty fragile, so even one little raindrop would feel like big car landing on their wings, so we might not see them flying around today but I bet you will maybe tomorrow or the next day when it gets warm again.”

Given how summer’s gone so far it sounds a bit like wishful thinking, but despite the wet weather both the kids and adults are ready to go. We line up behind Kate and head out to the nearest pond where she hands out nets for pond dipping.

More pond dipping

Photo: David Ozab

Soon there’s a mad dash for the water’s edge. Pairs of kids dip their nets into the pond, skimming the rain speckled surface of the water, while parents and grandparents fill clear plastic jars with water. They place these up on the table to hold the tiny creatures once they’ve been identified.

Two by two the kids return and empty their nets into plastic totes set out in the grass. For a moment, it just looks like dirty water, but then a speck or two starts to move. Cups at the ready, the kids scoop the little critters up and bring them to Kate who hands out magnifiers and helps identify them. The adults join in too.

A boy looks through a magnifier

Photo: David Ozab

Charlene Maron is here today with her grandson Simon. She laughs as she helps him scoop. “I don’t know, I think I’m more of a kid then the kid.”

Simon’s only four so his attention comes and goes, but before long he spots something different. It’s not moving, but it’s big and round and an almost translucent white. He scoops it up and brings it to the table.

“That looks like a frog egg,” Kate says. “Good job.”

He starts to dump the cup on the ground.

“Don’t dump it out.” Kate points to a large empty jar. “Let’s put it in the big one up here for everyone to see.”

The eggs drops in and drifts slowly down through the water.

“That’s cool, Simon,” Charlene says. “Look at it float.”

“Yeah, it’s the egg!” Simon watches it drift. “I think it’s a tadpole!”

“It will be a tadpole.” Charlene explains to Simon that the egg will hatch soon.

A frog egg in water

Photo: David Ozab

After about twenty minutes, everyone gathers around the table and Kate talks about the different insects they’ve found today: water boatmen, caddisfly larvae, stonefly nymphs, a bright red water mite, Simon’s frog egg, of course, and “the nymph of the hour,” the dragonfly nymph.

So despite the rain, the dragonfly hunt was a success. Everyone was a little bit wetter, but had a lot of fun learning about the water-dwelling insects in our area.

Nearby Nature’s next Family Nature Quest is Creepy Crawly Bug Safari, Saturday, August 13 at 10 a.m. in Alton Baker Park. Catch butterflies and other creepy-crawlies in the Walama Butterfly Meadow in Alton Baker Park with naturalist Rick Ahrens. Use butterfly nets, magnifiers, bug barns, and more. Meet in the Learnscape outside the Alton Baker Park Host Residence (between the Community Gardens and the dog run). FREE for members. $2/person, $5/family for non-members. Pre-registration suggested: 541-687-9699.

Be sure to put it in your calendar, and by August we may just get some sun.

UPDATE: MyEugene.org ceased operations in May, 2012. The site is down and currently for sale. I have reposted my complete articles on this site.  (11/6/2012)

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