Dragonfly nymph (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing and Technology, Science, and Nature.

Sun, 21 Aug 2011

Dragonfly nymph

A recent short hike at Sanborn was unexpectedly productive for creepy-crawlies.

At the lower pond, we looked for California newts. There were lots of newts last week a few miles away at Montebello, so we thought we'd see some at Sanborn too. But there weren't many adult newts in the pond -- we could only find three. That pond has never recovered from its draining three years ago, which seems to have killed all the fish and crayfish and driven away most of the newts.

[Dragonfly nymph] But we did see one very interesting sight: a large underwater bug, at least 2 inches long. It first caught our attention jetting through the water to the shallows near where we stood, where it sank to the bottom and rested for a while (posing for pictures!) It moved only slightly during the couple of minutes we watched it ... then it suddenly jetted off toward another part of the pond. I say "jetted" because it didn't move its legs or proto-wings at all; it moved like a torpedo, presumably propelled by a jet of water.

Upon returning home, at tip from a friend (thanks, Wolf!) I looked up dragonfly nymphs. Indeed, that's what this was. Much more massive than an adult dragonfly, these larvae apparently live underwater for several years, eating bugs, fish and small amphibians, until they're finally ready to metamorphose into the beautiful winged adults we're familiar with.

An interesting creature, and one I'd never seen before.

[CA newt larva with gills and legs] The small upper pond, unlike the lower one, was full of life. Small fish up to about an inch and a half schooled in the shallows. Some larger koi lurked near the reeds. But I spotted something that clearly wasn't a fish: yes, there's still at least one larval newt left in the pond. It obligingly lounged in a sunny spot near the pond's edge so I could snap pictures capturing its feathery gills as well as four tiny feet.

We also stopped by the scum pond at Walden West. No bullfrogs, no turtles. The only life we saw there was a couple of female mallards, eagerly vacuuming up the scum. That pond, with its surface completely covered with algae, must be paradise for an algae-eating duck ... I wonder why I don't see more of them there.

[garter snake] And as long as the subject is crawling animals, I can't resist throwing in a snapshot of a garter snake I spotted today at Huddart. Nothing especially rare or exotic, but a pretty little thing nontheless.

[ 19:39 Aug 21, 2011    More nature | permalink to this entry | comments ]
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