Life and Death in the Wetlands

Black Rat Snake out on a limb.

I first saw the snake in the photo as it was swimming in the shade of the willows at the edge of the Wetlands. It slowly crawled out of the water and onto one of the trees. Up it went until it found a limb to its liking and proceeded to follow it out to its end. I assume it was looking for bird nests in the willows, there’s much catbird activity in the area. Apparently finding no nest in this tree, it appeared as though the snake wanted to cross into the next tree, another willow.

The snake kept going along the limb (pictured) until it became too narrow to bear its weight. The limb began to vibrate up and down as the snake slowly moved along its length. Finally the snake crawled back over itself and down the main trunk until it found a more suitable limb where it did indeed cross to the next tree.

The snake was trying to cross into the next willow. Here it crawls back down the trunk to find a sturdy enough branch in which to do so.

I don’t know if the snake’s search was successful, I had to move on. I do know, however, that there was a catbird nest nearby.

Blue Dasher in the copulation wheel.

Not far away and later in the day, a pair of Blue Dashers had formed a copulation wheel, or mating wheel if you prefer, as the male transferred sperm to the female. They separated in a matter of minutes and the female flew off to oviposit into the water.

The transfer of sperm may take anywhere from mere seconds to an hour, depending upon the species, but all dragonflies enter this configuration in order to transfer the sperm from male to female.

Having recently separated from her mate a female Slaty Skimmer was seen ovipositing amongst the smartweed just off the boardwalk. I watched her for several minutes. But I wasn’t the only one who watched this slender skimmer hover-and-drop, hover-and-drop to the water and deposit her eggs. A very large male Bullfrog had at least one of his bulging eyeballs on her too.

A female Slaty Skimmer hovering inches above the water as she readies to deposit her eggs into the water.

Not long after the photo above was taken, the bullfrog snatched the skimmer from the air.

This male bullfrog put an end to the dragonfly’s maternal duties. She was, however, able to deposit quite a few eggs before being swallowed by the frog.

On a more peaceful note, the two young turtles below bask in the sun just off the Main Wetlands Overloook.

Two young Yellow-bellied Sliders rest while getting some sun.
As young as they are, these two show their ancient lineage in this close shot.

Don’t worry, nothing bad happened to the two basking turtles, at least while I watched them. Besides, they’re getting to the size where there’s not much that could eat them in our Wetland. They’re too big for the heron to gulp down, too large for a snake to swallow, and there are certainly no fish in our Wetland large enough to eat them. Aside from a playful otter tossing them around a bit or one of the turtles carelessly getting too close to the jaws of a snapping turtle, they’ve pretty much made it to a point in their lives where, if they don’t succumb to parasites or some infection, they may be able to stretch it out for 20 years of basking and swimming around in our Wetlands.

By the way, here’s what a male Slaty Skimmer looks like…

A male Slaty Skimmer perches on smartweed.


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