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Damp weather doesn’t deter determined dragonfly hunters in Eugene

by David Ozab on July 19, 2011

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

Nearby Nature's Dragons of the Air event in Eugene

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.Nearby Nature

It’s a necessary adjustment, Kate explains to the young army of insect hunters gathered around her in Alton Baker Park at the ponds outside of The Science Factory. 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,” Self explains. “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 distributes nets for pond dipping.

Kids scooping insects at Alton Baker ParkSoon 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 around. 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 Simon uses a magnifier at the July 2011 Nearby Nature family event.adults join in too.

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

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 says as she 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 exclaims as he watches it drift. “I think it’s a tadpole!”

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

After about 20 minutes, everyone gathers around the table and Kate talks about the different creatures they’ve found today: water boatmen, caddis fly 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 the Eugene area.

Nearby Nature‘s next Family Nature Quest is the “Creepy Crawly Bug Safari,” which will be held on Saturday, August 13 at 10 a.m. in Alton Baker Park.

By then, we may just get some sun.

David Ozab is a freelance writer and blogger living in Eugene. He writes about parenting and life at www.fatherhoodetc.com. He is a member of Willamette Writers.

 

Photo Credit: David Ozab

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