365 Nature – Day 264

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

Yesterday, on Day 263 I looked at the leaves starting to change colors. Today I noticed more signs of autumn as I walked around the arboretum. The first seems like it should be more a sign of spring, because we associate new greenery with that season and not autumn. However, like the moss I saw yesterday, a return to green is common with a return of the rain and today I noticed Licorice Ferns sprouting from trees. They nearly always grow on the trees, often high up on the branches and often rooted in mosses. But as the dry summer months drag on, the ferns often turn brown and dry up. With the return of rain they come back to life. Autumn is not a time of brown barrenness, it’s also a time of life.

I visited the pond again today since the sun was out. The sun, as I mentioned on Day 258, shines directly into the pond illuminating the water down to the bottom. There was still no sign of the swarms of water fleas I witnessed on Day 258 and at first I saw little movement. But as I sat and watched I saw more and more. A few water beetles, more of the larvae making cocoons out of algae, water fleas, snails and flatworms were all easy to find with a little patience. I brought my net and scooped it around the aquatic plants and pulled up damselfly larvae, water shrimp, snails, flatworms, mosquito pupae and other things I don’t know. It’s endlessly fascinating how much lives out of sight among the plants and algae underwater.

I took some of the tiny animals home to look at under the microscope. A few of the things I scooped up I believe are seed shrimps, a truly fascinating animal that looks indeed like a seed, but under the microscope with a back-light, looks like a shrimp inside a seed. I also found some scuds, which look like side swimming little shrimp. I also managed to catch one of the larvae that spun cocoons out of algae which I noted on Day 258. This one is a small one and it was not in the algae. Under the microscope it’s very strange looking, almost like a sea otter, only more worm-like. It appears to have two sets of appendages that I could see with one set right behind the head. It also reminded me of a very long and skinny tardigrade. I’ve looked through my books and I believe it may be a midge larva. Perhaps the most exciting catch I had was a water mite. In the pond I could only see something reddish, but under my microscope I could easily see the legs and large abdomen along with the pedipalps.

Kelly Brenner
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