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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.

Mid October, a cool day with clouds and sun changing places every half hour, it feels like the quintessential autumn day. As I walked through the wetland part of the arboretum this morning I spotted clusters of mushrooms standing in the fallen leaves and trees full of color, despite the recent windstorms. In duck pond, a carousel of Wood Ducks went round and round, males chasing each other in an infinite circle. I saw only one female, but a dozen or more male Wood Ducks.

Late yesterday afternoon I went through a container of pond life I’d scooped up earlier in the day. I had caught damselfly larvae, one so tiny as to nearly fit on the head of a larger one. They change dramatically in size as they grow. There were plenty of scud as well and I noticed differences in them. A couple were entirely pink, an unusual color. Most of them are greenish or a shade of dirty white. In others, I noticed a ball of color between their legs, against their chest. One had a blue ball, while others were clutching pink balls. I guessed these were eggs. As I tried to suck one into my pipette, the pink ball burst apart and was sucked up, while the scud remained in the petri dish. I figured I was right, and they were eggs that had come apart out of the grip of the adult. I squeezed them back into another petri dish and was quite surprised when they started moving. Grabbing my hand loupe I could see they were baby scud. I know nothing about scud, but hope to learn more. I wonder if the scud with the blue ball were eggs, because now I know the pink balls were babies. Or perhaps the blue ball scud was a different species. Next time I find one with these balls I will put them under the microscope to examine better.

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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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