Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hidden Treasures

THIS Sunday morning it was hot, hot, hot and shade and water were in order for our family outing. I hastily made up a picnic and the four of us piled in the car, headed to a mystery destination. We park in a dead end on a residential street and scramble down a wooded embankment. To my surprise we end up on a path which runs alongside a creek that is an offshoot of the Chattahoochee River. Sunlight shimmers through the leafy canopy overhead. Birds and crickets chirp and the brook really does babble. It's quite beautiful and we are the only sign of human life around.

Emma wants to know if it's 'people water' (translation: can I go in it?) Once we've found a good spot to camp, off come her clothes and she's in. At first just the shorts; later on the T-shirt too. Only a long discussion ending with "the fish will nibble your bottom" persuade her it would be better to keep her underwear on. Sandwich in hand, we hopped from stone to stone. In just a short stretch the bank changed from mossy to muddy to gravelly to sandy. We made footprints and handprints and felt the different textures between our toes and fingers. We dropped things in the water to see which would float and which would make the biggest splash. Emma noticed all the leaves were swimming in the same direction in the water. Tiny fish scrambled to get out of our way, while we did the same upon sight of a yellow jacket (wasp) nest. They were nested in the ground just a few inches from the water line. Surely they were smart enough to know that this spot would flood at the first rain?

Our wildlife highlight came on the way back to the car, as we crossed the creek on stepping stones. A small crawfish scuttled under a rock, but compliantly lay still as we carefully lifted the rock to admire him. In the picture, you can just see him in on the left side. In the water is the reflection of the trees above. Some crawfish facts:
  • Other names include crawdad, crayfish, mud bug

  • A crawfish biologist is called an astacologist

  • There are over 150 species of freshwater crawfish living across the wetlands of the southern US states

  • Crawfish live in the earth, burrowing sometimes complex tunnels systems

  • They are an important part of the ecosystem - they consume huge quantities of animal prey and decomposing plant material; crawfish themselves are a valuable food resource to fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals; their tunnels aerate heavy clay soils and abandoned burrows provide habitats for other creatures.

  • Crawfish also taste good in etoufee!

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