You all know that I am in love with water. That’s one thing my new home state of North Carolina has in abundance! There’s water in the air, water falling from the sky on a fairly regular basis (though I’m told it’s been a particularly rainy summer so far), and there are aquatic habitats practically everywhere I turn. I used to have to drive several miles in Tucson to get to the closest water, a city park with couple of tiny ponds filled with reclaimed water, but now I’ve got 4 sizable “ponds” mere blocks from where I live and the Neuse River is less than a 1/4 mile away. The idea of getting a boat has crept into my mind more than once and the thought isn’t completely laughable anymore. I could actually carry a lightweight craft to the nearest body of water! I absolutely love it.
The nature center where I’m working also has water. Let me take you on a brief tour of the aquatic habitats. I mentioned the little water garden in the demonstration garden last week:
It’s small, but I still enjoy poking around in there to see what I can find. I’ve always loved water lilies, and the carnivorous bladderworts fascinate me:
I hope I can see one trap an insect sometime! There is also a little bog garden in the demonstration garden that is filled with plants capable of surviving in saturated soils for at least some length of time. But these two aquatic areas are nothing compared to the other aquatic habitats at the ecostation. This is the pond:
It’s not entirely natural and has a man-made earthen dam at the lower end, but it is fed by rainwater coming off the prairie. I think it’s beautiful! There aren’t any fish in the pond (yet at least), so the top predators in the pond are snakes and aquatic insects. The pond is also where you find the biggest diversity of dragonflies on the Prairie Ridge grounds. There are a lot of dragonflies there, including the comet darners:
This individual was caught by a mist net that was set up to trap birds so that they could be banded and released. Comet darners are widespread in the eastern US but aren’t especially common in any given place. I feel fortunate to have seen both males and this stunning female at a pond that is so close that I can visit it on a quick break from work. I find myself down there often!
This is also on the grounds:
This stream is absolutely beautiful and winds its way through the wooded area of the property. The water is clear and I’m told that the quality is quite high. However, there is an Army National Guard base across the street and all the water from the extensive parking lots there flows into this stream. The result is it floods quite frequently and there is a lot of visible erosion:
I got to see a bit of flooding firsthand last week. I visited the stream briefly to take the photos above and then revisited the same spot three hours later to help another entomologist set up some light traps for moths. It had started raining in the interim and the change in flow in the stream was quite impressive! All that flooding unfortunately means there aren’t all that many aquatic insects in the stream, but I’m still looking forward to poking around in the water to see what I can find. Might actually be a fun place to determine how flooding impacts aquatic insect recolonization in a humid region. The moth traps turned up quite a variety of predaceous diving beetles, creeping water beetles, and other aquatic insects, so there’s got to be at least some good stuff in there!
Overall, I feel very lucky to be working in such a beautiful place. My new coworkers have seen dragonfly swarms over the prairie, and I’m living less than 2 hours from one very heavily traveled route on the migratory route for green darners, so it’s a good place for my dragonfly research. I can pop down to the pond in minutes and check up on what’s there easily, including the giant water bugs. The stream is absolutely gorgeous and there are bugs simply everywhere. Honestly, I couldn’t have picked a better place to work. I hope you all enjoy hearing about my adventures there!
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