October has brought beautiful weather to the Broward this past week. Temperatures are cooler, the skies seem bluer and the sunsets are getting prettier by the day. Unfortunately due to the recent government shutdown, no birds are allowed to fly over the river and all Kayak trips have been cancelled. All feathered fowl flights have been grounded due to lack of proper air traffic control support. I do have some good news to report though. Prior to the shutdown the local Red Shouldered Hawk nailed a copperhead in my back yard and Old Man River, the Great Blue Heron, was seen dining on a large water moccasin. A Black Crowned Night Heron also feasted on an unknown snake species found in the channel at low tide. Birds “3”, Snakes “Zero”.
In the meantime substitute “birds” (aka insects) are flying around instead. As I sit and watch the marsh totally void of birds a dragonfly approaches me coming up the floating dock gangway. It goes into a hover for a good minute or two it seems. I adjust the focus for close up photos and start pushing the doohickey. My shutter speed was only able to freeze motion on parts of the wings. Still, the detail that can be seen is incredible. Although not a true “macro”, the lens captures details of design, function, color and the wonder of creation. Dragonflies are ancient and have not changed much since they were created. One fossil found had a wingspan of about three feet.
Dragonflies are not related to common houseflies but are closer to damselflies. They live most of their life in water (up to three years) in a larva-like stage and have only a brief adult stage when they emerge from the water. They grow wings, fly for about three weeks and mate and die soon afterwards. So when you see a winged dragon fly it is near the end of its lifespan. There are two pairs of transparent wings with structural shapes that can be seen in the photos. There are more than 5,000 individual species. They are not harmful to humans, i.e. don’t bite etc., but feast mainly on mosquito larva, and small fish. Their large compound faceted eyes contain thousands of tiny lenses that give them a nearly 360-degree view. They can hover, fly sideways, backwards and forward at 30 miles per hour.
In actuality it is myself that has only been temporarily grounded and not the birds. In a few weeks I hope to back on the Broward with my camera. In the interim I will pause, refresh, and reflect on the coming autumn as I recover and share whatever flies by. And if, like the dragonflies, you see me sprout some “wings” someday, fear not. It is not the end, just the beginning. Be Blessed. Harry.