Wednesday, June 15, 2011

BIG Water Bug

Dartmouth, Nova Scotia is often referred to as the City of Lakes. It has lots of them. Little ones, big ones, you name it, turn a corner and there’s another lake. This means there’s lots of really cool wildlife to check out any time you go for a walk or a bike ride in Dartmouth.

Yesterday I decided to take my bike around Spectacle Lake which just happens to be in an industrial park. There had already been a bit of a trail laid down and some boardwalk over the wetter areas, but when I returned yesterday, I discovered that a little more has been developed.

I came across an excellent example of a constructed wetland. Natural wetlands are biofilters, helping to remove pollutants from water. A constructed wetland works in much the same way, as a natural filter of runoff water, storm drain discharge and a block to pollutants and garbage. On the top side of the trail is a rock hill,

on the bottom side of the trail is the constructed wetland with layers of rock, sand, and grasses and rushes. As well, bales of hay and a black “geotextile” (looks like a black tarp) are placed closer to the bottom of the wetland to catch bigger items and keep them from getting into the body of water the wetland is protecting. Very nice.

Also on the trails through the park I came across a vigilant mama or papa osprey, the province’s official bird.

At this time of year, I’m on the lookout for trilliums and lady slippers. The trilliums are almost done, but the lady slippers are in full bloom and as an added bonus I came across a thick patch of pitcher plants. These are carnivorous plants that trap insects in their pitchers in order to boost their nutrient intake. Creepy but cool. While I was taking pictures of these flowers, movement caught my attention. There appeared to be a leaf moving on the surface of the water. Closer inspection revealed it to actually be a giant water bug! What a find! And it was huge, at least 4 inches long. I got a few good pictures of it and desperately wanted to take it home to put under the microscope to get a closer look, but with what would I catch the thing? I hadn’t taken my bug kit on the bike with me (it has everything I need to catch and safely hold bugs) and I didn’t dare try to pick the thing up with my bare hands. These guys bite and they bite hard. So there I am, lying on my tummy on the boardwalk, with my hand alternately reaching out then withdrawing as I debated my chances of catching this thing and getting it into my jacket pocket without getting bitten. Oy, what a dilemma. Over my shoulder, about 100 yards away is a construction crew working on the new RCMP regional headquarters and I know there’s a guy in the crane watching me and probably wondering what the heck I’m doing. I’m also thinking to myself that this bug could bite through my jacket into my side and I don’t want that to happen while I bike back to the car. So I left it. Yeah, I have to admit, this thing scared me a little bit. But I took pictures.

Interestingly enough, some water bugs carry around the eggs on their backs until they hatch. They’re good dads. My dad used to carry me around on his back until I hatched, too…..Happy Father's Day!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Back to the Bugs

I may have gone a little overboard with my last post. Well, maybe not overboard so much as rambling. I get so excited about things that interest me, like the brain, and there's so much to know and learn, I get a little carried away.

Anyway, I have been trying to find some cool bugs to show you. Many of us have seen these little clumps of baby spiders in cracks and crevices. They are another source of amusement for me. If you disturb the clump, the spiders disperse. This is a defense mechanism; if a predator, like a bird comes along, it is likely to get fewer of the spiders if they run away in different directions. When the danger passes, they come together again. A few days after the babies have hatched, they release a thread of silk and are carried away by the wind.

I found a crane fly larva the other day and took it home to look at more closely under the microscope. Crane flies look like daddy long legs, only with wings. The larvae live in the soil and can cause damage to grass and flower roots. When it rains, they surface, like earthworms, to avoid suffocation. And the birds have a feast. Anyway, if you look at the video closely, you can see the back end of this one and as an added bonus, there's a tiny beetle crawling around its butt.

I came across some wild blue flag iris when the Wookie and I were on a Sunday drive and a few weeks ago we came across a small family of Canada geese. I rarely see these magnificent birds in this part of the world. The geese land an hour north of me as a rule, so when I do see them, they're on their way to and from their summer homes, too high in the air to get a decent picture.

On the biking front, I'm trying to get physically ready for the bike tour, which is coming up July 23 and 24. 10 k is my max so far, since the weather has been so crappy
it's really hard to get out. I can walk or hike in anything, but it's more dangerous cycling so prefer days that aren't raining. We've had an extraordinarily wet spring.
Of course, my fund raising is underway. Feel free to contribute by clicking on the link on the right. One of my instructors this past year is also doing the Bike Tour. I have to admit that my highest mark last semester was in his class. Blair rides for another team, but once he sees how much fun the Cycledelics have, I may be able to convince him to cross over to the dark side.