Sunday, September 4, 2011

Creek Life

YOU'D think with four children under six, a mad labrador and an excitable Jamaican in our camping party, the wildlife would stay very, very far away. And indeed many of the wiser creatures did, a few cawing a retreat or leaving a tiny footprint behind. But not all. Whether oblivious, confined or simply unperturbed, some animals of the water allowed themselves to be discovered.

Armed with new birthday catching nets and bug boxes we went to explore the creek. It was bursting with animal life! Diving beetles tootled leisurely through the water as pond skaters gathered in little groups around the edges. Tiny fish came into sight when we stayed very still then flitted away the second a small foot disturbed the silt. A 10cm long stick insect brushed my nose as I ducked under an overhanging branch. Two crawfish were enjoying a little sunlight in a shallow, sandy spot and dragonflies flew abundantly overhead.

But it was one particular insect that caught my attention. Under almost every stone we found the same clear-coloured crawling creature with a split tail from a few millimetres to 2cm or so, including a couple of larger outgrown skins outside the water. I think they were mayfly nymphs. Mayflies live up to a year under water in the larval stage, then crawl out of the water and in their last stages of moulting, emerge with wings. They then fly around for one day only, during which time they mate and lay eggs on the water's surface, where they sink to the bottom to repeat the cycle. Whatever they were, they made interesting creatures to watch.

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