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In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Learn more about the project and see all the 365 Nature posts.

The weather has gotten progressively warmer and today was the warmest day yet. The morning started warm and by the time we got to the arboretum for summer school, I was already feeling the heat. I went for a slow and shorter walk and early on I heard a lot of noise in the leaves off the trail and it sounded a bit too much for squirrels or birds. I stopped and as my eyes adjusted to the dark gloom of the forest, I saw a face peeking around the side of a tree trunk. The masked face watched me before retreating up into the tree, it was a raccoon. It kept to the opposite side of the tree, peeking around several times to watch me before it finally went back down and ran away down the hill.

I decided to visit the dragonfly pond because it was already so warm in the morning and I walked down and saw the parks department had once again hacked the vegetation. There was a small patch of water lilies, but the bank vegetation had been given a crew cut. As I watched the single dragonfly flying around, I heard the crows start gathering around something up the hill, a sound I hadn’t heard in a long time. Not being one to ignore what the crow is saying, I followed the caws and immediately spotted a Barred Owl sitting easy to see on a branch. As I watched, the owl flew up the hill a little and I went around to the path the next level up to get a better look. Once up there, the owl was hard to see, even though it was only a few feet from the trail. The crow soon gave up, but the Dark-eyed Juncos and an Anna’s Hummingbird continued chipping until I was able to spot the owl, who was calmly having a preen.

I left the owl and returned to the pond to sit down. I first sat on the hillside watching the dragonflies, but there were not many. A couple darners, at least one Common Green Darner, were all I could see. I moved closer to the pond to see if the damselfly numbers were any better and I easily spotted them. They were much more plentiful than the dragons and I spotted a lot along the edge of the pond. I looked for snails in the vegetation to take home and put in our wetlands in a bottle and as I looked, I spotted a damselfly larva swimming around. I’d never seen one before and I watched it swim from plant to plant, and each time it climbed up to the plant’s surface. I guessed that because it wasn’t at the bottom of the pond it was looking for somewhere to emerge as a damselfly. My thought was each time it reached the top of the plant it dismissed it as a suitable place to emerge. Eventually I saw another damselfly larva doing the same thing and after awhile I saw yet one more. One of them was moving much slower than the others and I realized it didn’t have its gills. The area was rich with damselfly larvae. I was surprised how colorful they were. Their bodies were mostly brown, but there was some yellow and even a little bit of blue on their abdomen.

The original one I kept watching until it eventually swam towards the pond’s concrete wall where it finally hauled itself out of the water. It walked a short distance up the wall and then without pause, started to emerge. It was swift, taking little time to get the front half out. It then sat for a few minutes, rubbing its arms together. And then as my camera lost the focus, it quickly pulled the rest of itself out. I then watched it start to fill out, the abdomen getting longer and the wings doing the same. I noticed movement and saw two more emerging on the corner and one teneral, a newly emerged, sitting on the top of the wall.

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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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