A Passion for Dragonflies – Terry Thormin
I have come to the conclusion that I am passionate about dragonflies, almost as passionate as Annie is about butterflies, and that is very passionate. I spend most of my summer months chasing them, watching them, studying their behavior, finding out where they live and when they fly and most of all photographing them.
I can spend the better part of a day at my favorite dragonfly habitat, Little River Pond, observing the dragonflies and trying to get some good photographs. I love to watch them course back and forth, hunting their favorite stretch of shoreline and looking for a mate. I love to observe the dog fights when a Blue Dasher decides that another individual, even if it is a species that is much larger than the dasher, is invading its territory. I find it fascinating to watch the different approaches that each species has to mating and laying eggs. I get a thrill when I see the first individual of a particular species for the year, and a new species for the pond will always make my day.
And so I sit quietly, patiently, with camera in hand, hoping that I will see something new, something different, but mostly hoping that one of the many dragonflies that are cruising the shoreline will hover for just long enough to allow me to get that great in-flight shot I want. Perhaps it will be a Green Darner this time, one that has eluded me so far. Or perhaps I will get really lucky and get an in-flight shot of an Eight-spotted Skimmer, virtually impossible because they never hover for more than a second or two. But if it turns out to be another shot of a Canada Darner, that’s good too.
But it is not just about the dragonflies. Most dragonfly habitats are places of beauty, and often there is a certain tranquility to them that transcends the worries of our human existence. A Great Blue Heron stalks the far shore hunting for fish, the resident Belted Kingfisher sits quietly on a branch overhanging the pond before it takes off and flies the length of the pond, rattling as it goes, a Cedar Waxwing flies out from a willow bush, hawking for insects and a Common Garter Snake lifts its head from amongst the water shield as it hunts for an unwary Red-legged Frog. These are just a few of the many creatures that frequent the pond, and to do them justice would require a book, not a blog.
Perhaps the most exciting moments at the pond occur when the local Merlin takes off from a tall conifer at the far end of the pond and barrels down the pond just above the surface hunting for dragonflies. I can always tell when it is taking up the chase as it will suddenly twist and turn as it attempts to catch the dragonfly that is trying to evade it. If the Merlin fails it usually flies up and over the willows that separate the two sections of the pond (in the winter when the water is high the pond is one large body of water, but as the water drops during the summer months it separates into two ponds with a short channel connecting them). I suspect that it then does a low fly-by over the other section of the pond hoping for an unwary dragonfly. If it succeeds in the first section of the pond it will return to its perch and sit there devouring the dragonfly. Its favorite species is the Common Green Darner and although during the summer it will put a good dent in the population of that species, somehow I cannot begrudge it its meals.
Occasionally someone will come along and ask me if I have seen the resident beaver. Although I do see the beaver once in awhile, I always explain that I am here for the dragonflies and not our national mammal. This often leads to a discussion about dragonflies, and if I have a chance to educate people about these fascinating insects I jump at it. And at the end of the day if I don’t have a single good dragonfly photo somehow it does not matter that much, I still feel fulfilled.
I told Annie that I wished I could write poems as beautiful as hers, and she kindly offered to write one about dragonflies for me. I almost took her up on the offer, but then I realized that this is my passion and any poem had to come from me. And that night as I attempted to get to sleep, it did come. So here it is, my first attempt at writing poetry in decades. I hope you get some pleasure from it, and more importantly I hope the message makes a difference, no matter how small.
It flies the edges of the pond,
wings flashing in the sun.
Searching for food and for a mate,
but always on the run.
For there is danger in the skies,
and even from below.
From hawks and snakes and even fish,
where lily pads do grow.
But fly it must, so great its need
to find a willing mate,
that back and forth it courses as
It leaves its life to fate.
And from the shore I sit and watch
With heart that’s full of wonder.
Upon its beauty and its grace,
and on its fate I ponder
For other dangers far worse lurk,
dangers that it can’t know.
For humans must drain wetland and
plant crops that they can grow.
And pesticides and herbicides
are used without a thought
to all that’s killed within their wake
and all the damage wrought.
And if I could I’d tell the world
to stop, to cease, don’t do it.
For if we lose the dragonflies
we’ll all be poorer for it.
But if we save their habitat
it’s to ourselves we give.
For clean, fresh water is earth’s life blood,
what we ALL need to live.
So here’s a thought, my readers dear,
something to act upon.
Go find some dragonflies and be
a “Watcher at the pond”.
For only if you really look,
take time to truly see,
then their true beauty will come through
and richer you will be.
©Terry Thormin, June 22, 2012
Cardinal Meadowhawks flying in tandem while laying eggs
And a final word, the reference to the “Watchers at the Pond’ is a reference to an absolutely wonderful book of the same name written by Franklin Russell in 1961. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants a totally engrossing read about the life and death of those creatures that live in and around a typical North American pond.