Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wasps and Other Mud Puddle Visitors

During early afternoon on the day before the Toad Pool went dry, I spent a couple of hours photographing visitors to the rapidly shrinking puddle. During this session I concentrated more on short videos than on stills.

A single, newly morphed toad is a couple weeks behind the hoard that emerged from the pool a few weeks ago. This little guy has only been a land dweller for a short time, but it already displays the mannerisms of an adult.  Click HERE for YouTube version.

The most noticeable visitors to the pool were wasps loading up on water. The wasps were light enough to ride the surface tension of the water as they drank.

Several species of paper wasps took advantage of this dwindling water supply. A few mud wasps also flew in, but they all left with only water.  Click HERE for YouTube version.

The paper wasp in this video doesn’t seem to be intimidated by the beetle larva attacking it from the rear. It’s probably a good thing the larva couldn’t get hold of the wasp, or it might’ve been pulled right out of the water.  Click HERE for YouTube version.

A small wolf spider stalked the mud flats.  It was particularly interested in the movement of what appeared to be a small insect near the edge of the pool. What wasn’t immediately obvious was the fact that the small insect was held in the jaws of a much larger aquatic beetle larva.

The spider finally attempts an attack on the small insect, but is driven back when the beetle larva begins to thrash its head. Immediately after the head thrashing, the beetle larva scoops a small bit of mud into his breathing snorkel, located just to the right of the thrashing head, and shoots a mud ball at the place the spider had just been.  An interesting defense mechanism.  Click HERE for YouTube version.

Several butterflies took advantage of the wet mud to imbibe some mineral laden water. The most persistent of these was a common Buckeye.

The temperature at the time this video was made was 93°F and there was a strong wind blowing. You can see the puddling butterfly occasionally buffeted by the wind. I was pretty much baked all the way through by the time I called an end to this photography session.  Click HERE for YouTube version.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Drought 2017 - Toad Pool

After several months of experiencing rain storms two or three times per week, the rain has stopped.  Three weeks of dry, hot weather has left the Toad Pool as nothing but a small patch of mud.  The last bit of open water disappeared on June 12.

The water level remained good until June 2.  That is when temperatures began reaching 90°F and strong, dry winds began to blow.  Under these conditions, you could almost see the pool growing smaller.

On June 5, an approaching storm front gave hope of some much needed rain.  When just a few miles away, the line of rain formed a gap that neatly slid over Blue Jay Barrens.  I could see the rain clouds to the north and south of us, but not a drop fell here. 

By June 8 the water depth was down to about two inches.  Forecast was for dry and windy conditions.  Fortunately, the bulk of the toad tadpoles had morphed into tiny toadlets by the end of May.  The pool had served its intended purpose well.

An interesting pattern was left behind by the tadpoles.  While feeding, each tadpole would work its way down into the mud as it searched out algae and other tiny food items.  The tadpole’s head would remain stationary and the body would rotate around that fixed point.  The result was a depression in the mud.  This pattern of dimples covered the bottom of the pool.

My photos of the depressions turned out to be good examples of the Dimple and Bump Optical Illusion.  Depending on how it is viewed, the pattern may appear to be a series of indentations or a series of raised bumps.  I can manage to switch back-and-forth between seeing dimples and bumps.  My wife sees only bumps, but she has taught High School English for 35 years so …

A mixed bag of mammals and birds have been visiting the pool for water and to take advantage of any food morsels left vulnerable by the shrinking pool.  Rain storms began moving through the area yesterday.  Flash flooding has occurred just a few miles from our location, but we have only managed to get rains just slightly stronger than a drizzle.  I hope this doesn’t continue as a summer long pattern.