As I mentioned yesterday, my mother-in-law introduced me to a new little pond this week. It is your standard industrial drainage pond, part of the drainage system for a small industrial park, augmented by the fact that the whole facility was built on a pad of fill in more or less wetland and the water has to go somewhere. It is the last in a series of ponds and French drains on the property and it is remarkably healthy for a drainage pond.
The thin boarder of reeds and other water plants along the edge, the grassy verge, the exposed rocks and the gravel path around the pond, and the backing of trees and shrubs, make it ideal Odonata habitat, with easy access for photography as well…and indeed it is alive with dragon and damselflies. The number of species is impressive, but the number of individuals, for Southern Maine, is even more impressive. In several visits over the past two days I have seen:
Green Darner (15-20 at all times over pond and the grassy verge)
Eastern Pondhawk (both male and female in large numbers, 30 or more of each)
Twelve-spotted Skimmer (about the same numbers as Green Darners)
Widow Skimmer (many males and one female so far)
Common Whitetail (males only, and only two that I have seen)
Black Saddlebags (5-10, but very aggressive, and very present)
Blue Dasher (30 or more, and a few so small I am trying to make them into Elfin Dasher or Blue Dragonlets)
Eastern Amberwing (half a dozen)
A single female White-faced Meadowhawk
And one spectacular, and very red, Calico Pennant.
Then you have the damsels:
Azure Bluet for sure.
Orange Bluet (I think)
And bunches of sprites down on the floating vegetation that I have not begun to sort.
It is an Odonata lover’s feast! This is not a big pond…so watching this man dragonfies over the water at any given time is like watching a soccer match with no goals and no rules. When I close my eyes to sleep at night, my inner vision is full of darting shapes against the light.
I was especially delighted to find a newly emerged Green Darner on Friday. You never get a chance to photograph a Green Darner…oh, maybe a female hung up waiting on a mate, or a mating wheel…both of those I have from California…but not an individual Green unless they are newly emerged and not yet ready for flight.
And the Eastern Pondwalks are rapidly becoming one of may favorite dragonflies. Both male and female are striking in their own ways. The male in the lead image shows off the green face and the subtle blue pruinescence (powdery frost) covering the green body, while the female, without the pruinescence. is exactly the same shade of green as my electric scooter.
This pond is also the first place I have seen Dragonfly cases…the shells left when Dragonflies emerge from the last larva stage. The Green Darners climb high up on reeds or bushes for the transformation, and the shells remain attached to the reed by those strong legs until a sufficiently powerful wind knocks them loose. When I first saw them, I could not imagine what in the world kind of bug they were! With the low sun of late afternoon behind them they have a bizarre (maybe a bit creepy even) beauty of their own.
You will be seeing lots more of the Odonata wonders of Quest Pond over the coming days, I am sure.
And for the Sunday thought. If someone had told me a year ago that the highlight of my 2012 summer would be the discovery of new drainage pond at an industrial estate…
Well, actually I might not have found it that hard to believe given my past experience and what I know about myself, but it does sound unlikely on the face of it.
And, of course, except for the dragonflies and damselflies I would probably not have given Quest Pond a second look. just another drainage pond. And think of what I would have missed!
That is the thing about being awake in the world. Here I am at almost 65 years old (August 14th) and still learning…still finding new stuff to feed the wonder and the delight of being alive. Me and my Pondhawk green electric scooter pulling up to the pond on a sunny afternoon, with my white beard and with my camera on my hip and my Tilly hat hung down my back behind my emerald green helmet…must be quite a sight. But that’s okay. I am having fun.
And it is not like I am finding anything new…all these bugs have been seen and even photographed…by people who know a lot more about them than I do…people who have devoted, or are devoting, their working lives to getting to know everything there is to know about Odonata. I depend on them for what little I know. But, the fact is, this is all new for me…I have never seen and never photographed these bugs…this peculiar beauty…so it fills me with the delight of discovery.
And I think that is the key to being awake. I think our spirits require a constant diet of discovery…I think we are driven to keep exploring this world, these creatures that share it, ourselves, those we know and those we love…to find the newness in it all…the new every day…to find the beauty. I think we are driven, I know I am driven, to share it in these words and photographs. It is my spiritual act. It is the action of my spirit, to bring Quest Pond and Pondhawks and empty dragonfly cases to your attention this morning, confident that those who are in touch with the same spirit, the loving spirit of creation, the spirit of all that is new and all that we can discover…will find the delight in them…will see the beauty…will experience the love. Happy Sunday!