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The Daily Bucket is a regular feature of the Backyard Science group.  It is a place to note any observations you have made of the world around you.  Rain, sun, wind...insects, birds, flowers...meteorites, rocks...seasonal changes...all are worthy additions to the bucket.  Please let us know what is going on around you in a comment.  Include, as close as is comfortable for you, where you are located. Each note is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns that are quietly unwinding around us.
early summer 2014
Pacific Northwest

Holiday for us today. Meanwhile, the bugs and beasts are going about their lives as usual, focused on getting food, avoiding capture and propagating their kind. Today the critters in an artificial stormwater runoff pond are doing that, making the most of the summer day. From the looks of it they better - the pond appears to be drying up.

full golf pond

Let's look at some of this busy and beautiful aquatic wildlife I observed a few days ago.

Tiny bits of colorful life can be seen, drawn to the murky green water: red, white and blue, among others. Brightly conspicuous is this red male Cardinal Meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum). The females are rarely seen. This dragonfly is found in even very small temporary ponds, producing large eggs that hatch into larvae that develop quickly.

cardinal meadowhawk dorsal

more pond life below...

(All photos by me. In to enlarge)

Cardinal Meadowhawk perched on Mare's Tail weed, lateral view. All those reds!

cardinal meadowhawk lateral

The only other dragonfly I could photograph was this male Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), resting momentarily from his aggressive darting patrol of his territory. A female will visit and lay eggs which are very tolerant of extreme conditions. This species is abundant and widespread, able to breed opportunistically even in places like trampled cattle stock ponds.

common whitetail

Damselflies were much more common. They were all in shades of blue.

These Northern Bluets (Enallagma annexum) were all along the periphery of the pond. There are lots of bluet species. I was able to identify these using a good ID book I just got, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West, which uses features like the blue dumbbell-shaped marking on their heads to distinguish them from their close relative the Boreal Bluet.

many bluets

a few bluets

Some were in the early stages of mating.

mating bluets

This blue and black damselfly is a male Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula), very common in small backyard ponds.

pacific forktail

And this powder-blue beauty is a female Western Forktail (Ischnura perparva). The females of this species are far more common than the males. Here she is eating a spider.

westrn forktail

There were other flying insects, including other odonates, flies, gnats, and mosquitoes, variously eating and getting eaten.

The murky pond water itself was full of life. Backswimmers, water bugs, water striders. Can you see the Water Scorpion? Like many of the aquatic insects adapted to stagnant water this one gets oxygen from the air above. Water this warm, shallow and still has little dissolved oxygen.

water scorpion

There's enough to support tadpoles though in their early stages when they use gills.

many tadpoles

These are Pacific Chorus Frog larvae (Pseudacris regilla), feeding on the abundant pond scum. There were all stages of larvae in this pond, some almost ready to venture off onto land, hopefully into the nearby woods.

young tadpole

old tadpole

Within the patch of cattails I heard the plopping sounds of frogs. Tracks in the mud show signs of raccoons visiting this pond.

coon tracks

The cracks in the mud show the clay is drying up. This little pond was built to store stormwater runoff from a nearby development. Unfortunately the ground here is a deep layer of sand water soaks right through. It has been lined with clay more than once but the seal has failed and it is slowly draining. We have also entered the PNW summer drought season, so it is losing water through evaporation as well. The water level drops each day. The colorful busy creatures here are making the most of this aquatic oasis.

drying pond


Many of us are out and about today, including me for a part of the afternoon. Drop in as you like to share what's up in your wild world of nature.

"Spotlight on Green News & Views" will be posted every Saturday and Wednesday at 1:00 pm Pacific Time on the Daily Kos front page.  Be sure to recommend and comment in the diary.

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Fri Jul 04, 2014 at 07:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Shutterbugs and Community Spotlight.

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