A Sweet, New Animal (but It’s a Bug)

The other day Bear and I took off for the Refuge (how many posts start this way?) it was a beautiful early fall day after rain in the night, meaning the air was soft, the clouds fluffy and and and and… I know there are places in the world where days like that happen a lot, but here they are rare. My view of Mt. Blanca was obscured by soft, fluffy clouds. The loveliest thing about our time that day was that everything was completely still. Very few cars on the road. No crane tourists. The only sound a fleeting breeze that came and went — came enough to make it comfortable, went enough to maintain the silence.

Last year, the first fall I walked out there, was unusual because of the snow we had in late summer. What I’m experiencing out there now makes me think this year is more normal. As we walked I found myself being boarded by tiny transparent creatures who looked like fairies. As many as six would be riding along on my leg or sleeve — and there were probably more I couldn’t see. I took a photo of one hoping to find out what she was when I got home.

After a little work, I discovered that she is a Mayfly. I learned a lot about them. I learned that they were around during the dinosaur time, that they spend most of their lives as eggs, babies and sub-adults, that as adults they have no mouths and don’t need them. The live long enough to mate. Interesting priorities, but apparently good for the survival of these delicate creatures. There’s no way to dispute that such a bizarre evolutionary “choice” makes it easy for them to focus during the very brief moments of their adult lives. Yes, there’s a useful metaphor there.

They are harmless (except, perhaps, for the metaphor) and, what’s more, their presence is a sign of good water quality. They can’t endure pollution of any kind. That speaks very well for the care given the wetlands in my world.

I began to regard them as truly wondrous little hitchhikers. I wouldn’t have seen any last year. This part of their life cycle would have been eliminated by the early snow and hard freezes.

I’ve never gotten to know a wet-land. My life has been spent in dry places, not swamps, so I’m learning something all the time.

Somewhere along the way, Bear stopped, sat, leaned against me, and pointed her nose south. The breeze stopped for a few minutes and I could hear an uproar of cranes in the distance, far out of my sight. Bear, of course, with her amazing dog senses, knew the cranes were there and what was happening with them. I stopped to watch and soon understood what was going on. The young bald eagle had been flying over the group of cranes hoping for an easy meal. That’s what caused the momentary crane-rage. He flew low over the emptiness as I watched. I can’t say I’m privy to the motives of raptors, but I sensed he was trying to save face, kind of, “I didn’t want any of you nasty cranes, anyway. I’m looking for a rabbit!”

32 thoughts on “A Sweet, New Animal (but It’s a Bug)

  1. I’ve missed you, Martha. What a fascinating “normal” walk for the two of you. I’ve seen mayflies before, but can’t remember where. Their life goal seems simple enough. And without the mouth…I’ll leave that there. Maybe instead of being like a butterfly, a mayfly would be a sweet thing. And seeing the bald Eagle? What a wonderful day. There was so much peace for you. Finley and I send love and hugs. 💜💛❤️🤗

  2. Mayflies make me sad. Their lives are so brief! But shaking that feeling off I have to say that I’m not letting Sparky read any of your posts. He has “puppy fever” very badly since it is coming up on the anniversary of our dog Ranger’s death. The image of Bear leaning against your leg or worse a smiling Teddy (since Ranger was an Aussie too) would necessitate a dog joining the household – and I’m not ready for that!

  3. Mayflies, we have plenty of them in one spot of the garden. Yearly, watch them come out in a frenzy. I let them be. Watch them in stillness. As quickly they came, they quickly disappeared. Until next year.

  4. Mayflies can be so thick around here that they foul engines, they cause boat decks to be so slippery that people fall overboard, they contribute to car crashes because people can’t stop or slide off the road. Bicyclists have to keep their mouths shut when they ride through a cloud of them. Janitors have to stop them up in the morning.

  5. What a blissful post. It has been a more “normal” autumn here, also. I did not know that mayflies were an indicator of good water quality. Ophelia sends her love to Bear and Teddy.

  6. Fantastic shot of the Mayfly. I had no idea there was a bug with no mouth that (eventually) becomes an adult, mates and dies. Nature and its metaphors! A bug that won’t bite – I like that.

    • The Mayfly has a mouth in every stage except the adult stage. Then its only purpose on the planet is to mate. During this interval it lives a VERY short time (obviously 😉 ) There were very few out there yesterday.

          • And…then what about taking care of all those baby Mayflies? Who is left? Maybe their survival depends on a clean environment to make it all possible. Amen! 😀

            • Yes! It was a really wonderful thing to learn about. I know that mayflies are a nuisance where there are millions of them swarming at once, but here? They have just been flying around my head and landing on my clothes. Then I learned about them and thought, “You little bugs are totally right about the Refuge. It’s a wonderful place.” And you know, they’re not mammals or birds. No one really has to take care of the babies… As crazy as the design seems, they’ve been around for hundreds of thousands of years. ❤

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