Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The 300-Million-Year Old Dance Of The Dragonfly   2 comments


August 18, 2019 Post from Kiko’s House blog (Blogger Shaun D. Mullen Passed Away in December 2019)

Dragonflies are among the world’s most ancient creatures and have been performing the mid-summer mating dance that I have observed almost every year of my life for 300 million years.  That’s more than 100 million years before dinosaurs appeared.

I can remember being fascinated by this dance as a youngster, although I didn’t understand that it was all about making baby dragonflies.

My brother and I would trap lightning bugs in Mason jars to sell to the man at the agricultural research station.  He paid us a dime a jar for his research into what made the bugs’ tails glow, but I would never consider trapping dragonflies for any amount of money.  Even then they occupied a special place in my world.

Perhaps it was because their dance reminded me of dog-fighting World War I flying machines, which captured my imagination at an early age, but I would like to think that the connection was more subtle.

I lived in Japan and traveled the Far East for a few years.  The dragonfly is revered in that part of the world and is depicted on everything from pottery to textiles. I recall one particularly glorious afternoon when I observed their mating dance in the backwater of a stream in the foothills below Mount Fuji.

After I returned to the States, I would take long walks up a dirt road next to a slow-flowing creek on hot mid-summer days, turn down a narrow footpath through high weeds and slip into the water.  It was refreshingly cool four or five feet beneath the surface and I loved to feel the chill percolate up into my chest and then my head.

Dragonflies colonize around creeks and ponds, so it usually wasn’t long before they were performing their dance around me.  Sometimes they would alight on my forehead – even in mating tandems — if I sat perfectly still and thought yoga thoughts and breathed yoga breaths. 

It was during this period that I first began reading about odonata, as this insect family is called.

I learned that the three species indigenous to my neck of the woods are members of the libellula genus.  These include my companions over many a summer — the bar-winged skimmer (Libellula axilena) and the less common great blue skimmer (Libellula vibrans). There also is the apparently elusive Jane’s meadowhawk (Sympetrum janeae), which is recognizable by its reddish body but has escaped my gaze.

I also learned that these species of dragonflies are short lived (seven to 10 weeks, although some species can live up to four years).  They also are territorial.

The mating dance is initiated by the male showing his genitals, of which he is endowed with two sets.  This display allows male and female to make sure that they are of the same species and therefore suitable mates.  The male then bends his abdomen so that one set of genitals touches the other, which is a sure-fire turn-on for the female, who curls her abdomen forward to make contact with the secondary genitalia and receives the sperm.

As I have often observed, the ritual can vary.

Sometimes the male grabs the female by the head or thorax for a “quickie” without going through the dance.  Other times the dance is long and elaborate, involving much diving and spinning, including mad charges in reverse, but in either event copulation takes less than a second. 

Sometimes male and female remain in tandem for several minutes, as if to say, “Was it as good for you as it was for me?”  The females are acutely sensitive to pollution and will lay their eggs only if the water is clean.  Other times they lay them on waterside plants. 

Sometimes the male acts as a lookout for the female as she lays the eggs he fertilized.  In fact, scientists say that males are so committed to their mating partners that they can display signs of jealousy if other males try to nose in.

A few years later, I lived in an old house a short walk from the creek and two particularly lovely spots — Ring Rock and the Burned Out Bridge. 

Ring Rock (also known as the Rock That David Sat On) is a massive limestone remnant of the furthest extent of the last Ice Age that protrudes from the water at a 25 degree angle. It is so named because an iron ring had been pounded into the rock perhaps 200 years ago so that the locals could tether their wagons to it and lower them into the creek to be cleaned — an early version of the car wash.   I never learned who David was, but I would slide into the creek below the rock — which was six or seven feet deep even in the mid-summer heat — and watch the dragonflies dance.

Alas, the rock attracted hikers and the occasional swimmer, so I moved on to the Burned Out Bridge. 

A pair of overgrown fieldstone foundations on either side of the creek are all that remain of this 19th century covered bridge, which is said to have been torched by a man in the early 1950s so that he and his son could fish undisturbed.  This is at a point just below where the west and middle branches of the creek converge, an area that is heavily silted and quite shallow.  It took all of one summer and part of the next, but I methodically moved sand and piled rocks until I had fashioned a pool about four feet deep where I could resume my dragonfly encounters.  My kids were too young to be of much help, but our big goofus of a black Labrador retriever became pretty good at picking up rocks and dropping them onto the sides of our pool.

It was here that I began seriously expanding my horizons to other fauna as I would sit quietly at periscope depth. 

There were rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus kykiss), restocked each spring for sport fishermen by the state fish and wildlife agency, and the occasional sunny (Lepomis machrochirus), as well as some wee fishies that I was never able to identify.  There were water-walking spiders (Dolomedes triton), black snakes (Elaphe obsoleta), a water moccasin (Ancistrodon piscivorus), which was a very rare sighting that far north of its southern habitat, and all sorts of toads and frogs, including little frogs called spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer crucifer), so named because of the time of their arrival each year and their high-pitched trill.  The black lab would slog into the marshy areas between the creek and woods and ingest mouthsful of them.

It is mid-summer again.  It’s been too hot to trek up to the creek, but I was sitting near a fountain in the quiet university town where I used to live.

I put down the book I was reading, took off my sunglasses and let the sun beat on my face. My mind drifted back to my childhood and the illustrations in a favorite picture book. The young hero is sick and has been put to bed by his mother where he imagines that the quilt spread out below him is a make-believe world with villages, roads and farm fields.  Armies clash across this terrain and dog fighting aeroplanes bob, weave and loop overhead.  I grew drowsy and my mind drifted further when something drew me from my reverie and I opened my eyes.

It was dragonflies doing their dance over the fountain.

Shaun D. Mullen

PHOTOGRAPHS BY SAYHITOANT 

Cadillac Desert   Leave a comment

“If surface water can be compared with interest income,
and non-renewable groundwater with capital,
then much of the West was living mainly on interest income.”

Marc Reisner

Peloncillo Mountains“Fenceline” — Photo-Artistry by kenne

Fenceline

lost in its
harsh beauty
we walk the fence line
drawn to the
once riparian land
on the other side

fences cannot hide
the splendor
nor the disgrace
now tattooed
across a fragile land
abused and neglected
by cultures past
and present

a place where
water once stood
now disappearing
to caverns below
playing hide ‘n seek
from pipes sucking
their very subsistence
on to nearby pecan groves

not learning to share
we fight for water
destroying the source
leaving behind death
only to cycle back
after all is gone

a lone jackrabbit
runs ahead of us
darting from
bush to bush
seeking to outlast
the hand of death
pulling at us
urging us to follow

— kenne 

Class Of 2028 Goes On Nature Walk   2 comments

debbie leading nature walk-72-2Naturalist Debbie Bird Leads 3rd Graders On Nature Walk — Image by kenne

For January, I’m the Thursday Day Coordinator for the SCVN Elementary School Nature Program, which means I’m the one responsible for coordinating with the teacher the class field trip to Sabino Canyon. Once the class arrives, I make sure everything runs smoothly, and the students have a great nature experience. It’s a classic “managing by walking around” experience. During that time I also take pictures — https://www.flickr.com/photos/kennetu/albums/72157702835523912

One of the nature walks was being led by naturalist Debbie Bird when I noticed she had picked up a couple of hitch-hikers from the north. I can see why they were following Debbie’s group because she is very informative.

As we moved about, I asked the couple, “Now tell me the truth, are following this group of third graders because you want to learn something about nature or is it that you want to be part of the Class of 2028?”

— kenne

My Weekly Mountain Sojourn   Leave a comment

Golden Columbine-3197 blog IIGolden Columbine On Mt. Lemmon — Image by kenne

We drive the twisting
Catalina Highway
leaving the desert
for alpine forests 
on Mt. Lemmon —  
one hour away. 

Today I guide hikers
on the Aspen Draw
trail among the tall trees
next to the steep slopes
of Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley —
north America’s southernmost.

Wildflowers of the Sky Islands
are in full bloom celebrating
the summer monsoon rains
below the towering conifers —
temperate species of
Apache pine and Chihuahuan pine.

Recent heavy rains
have eroded the trail
exposing trees roots
not always easy to see
in shadows on the trail —
I reminded the hikers.

Moving with more speed
on the downhill return
careful of foot but
not careful enough
as I tripped over a root
now shouldering the pain.

— kenne

 

The Ghosts of Monsoons Past   Leave a comment

Control Road to Crystal SpringGrunge Art by kenne

 

Human Misery

The clock that strikes five before the sun –
A dark horror grips lonely people,
In the evening-garden bleak trees swish,
The dead one’s countenance stirs at the window.
Perhaps this hour stands still.
Before dull eyes blue images flutter
To the rhythm of the ships, which rock in the river.
At the wharf a row of nuns blows by.
Pale and blind girls play in the hazel bush,
Like lovers, who embrace in sleep.
Perhaps flies sing around a carcass there,
Perhaps also a child weeps in the mother’s lap.
From hands asters sink blue and red,
The youth’s mouth slips away strange and wise;
And eyelids flutter fear-confused and quiet;
Through fevered blackness a scent of bread blows.
It seems one also hears horrible screaming;
Bones shimmer through decayed walls.
An evil heart laughs loudly in beautiful rooms;
A dog runs past a dreamer.
An empty coffin gets lost in the darkness.
A room wants to light up palely for the murderer,
Meanwhile, lanterns are smashed in the night’s storm.
Laurel adorns the noble one’s white temple.

— Georg Trakl

Ken’s Stuff and More Stuff   Leave a comment

Kenneth Harris-1613 blogKenneth Harris (May 20, 2017) — Image by kenne

“Stuff.”
One of my favorite words is stuff.

“That’s Super Stuff!”
“Make Stuff”
“I Love Free Stuff”
“The Good Stuff”
“My Stuff”
“Stuff in My Life”
“Stuff That Works”
“The Right Stuff”
“How’s Your Stuff?”

There are so many variations on the use of the word stuff. This last May we attended the last “Ken and Mary’s Blues Project” house concert in Porter, Texas. Before the music started, Kenneth Harris told the story of how the Project came about from his listening to Sunday blues on Houston’s KPFT. One Sunday he was listening to Nuri Nuri’s Blues Brunch.

“. . . he [Nuri] was interviewing this guy, and they played some of his stuff, and I called Nuri on the phone, and I said Nuri do you know anybody in the Houston area that can do that type of stuff, and he told me you meet me at Billy Blue’s like next Saturday night.”

Long story short, Kenneth found that stuff in the form of the Moe Hansum Band.

As I listen to Kenneth’s story I couldn’t help but think of Guy Clark’s “Stuff that Works.”

Stuff that works, stuff that holds up 
The kind of stuff you don’ hang on the wall 
Stuff that’ real, stuff you feel 
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall

Continuing on this theme of “Stuff,” in the 1970’s there was a jazz-funk band called “Stuff.” The members were Gordon Edwards (bass), Richard Tee (keyboards), Eric Gale (guitar), Cornell Dupree (guitar), Chris Parker (drums), and later Steve Gadd (drums).

There is good stuff and not so good stuff, because of what we do with our stuff. We have too much stuff. Earth’s beauty is being scarred by the stuff we throw away daily. As someone who spends a lot of time outdoors admiring nature’s beauty, I see stuff on our trails, hanging in trees, blowing in the wind, in our lakes and streams.

In December of 2007, a short documentary was released. The documentary was critical of excessive consumerism and promotes sustainability, which has gone from a movie to a movement over the last ten years — a Community of more than a million changemakers worldwide, working to build a more healthy and just planet. This land is our land! You can join the movement. 

 

 

Bee On A Desert Chicory Wildflower   Leave a comment

Desert Chicory-6391 art blogBee on a Desert Chicory Wildflower — Computer Art by kenne

The Song of the Bee

Buzz! buzz! buzz!
This is the song of the bee.
His legs are yellow;
A jolly, good fellow,
And yet a great worker is he.

In days that are sunny
He’s getting his honey,
In days that are cloudy
He’s making his wax:
On pinks and on lilies,
And gay daffodillies,
And columbine blossoms,
He levies a tax

Buzz! buzz! buzz!
The sweet-smelling clover,
He, humming, hangs over;
The scent of the roses
Makes fragrant his wings:
He never gets lazy;
From thistle and daisy,
And weeds of the meadow,
Some treasure he brings.

Buzz! buzz! buzz!
From morning’s first light
Till the coming of night,
He’s singing and toiling
The summer day through.
Oh! We may get weary,
And think work is dreary;
‘Tis harder by far
To have nothing to do.

— Marian Douglas

(from The Book of Virtues”: A Treasury of Great Moral Stories by William J. Bennett)

Bee On Fairy Duster   Leave a comment

fairyduster-0665-blogBee On Fairy Duster — Image by kenne

Insect lover of the sun,
Joy of thy dominion!
Sailor of the atmosphere,
Swimmer through the waves of air,
Voyager of light and noon,
Epicurean of June,
Wait I prithee, till I come
Within ear-shot of thy hum,–
All without is martyrdom.

— from The Humblebee by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Our Global Water Crisis   1 comment

Rainbow

RainbowNicaraguan Women Pumping and Carrying Water to Their Families — Images by kenne

In 2007 I had an opportunity to visit a rural Nicaraguan water project that is part of the Rainbow Network. When it comes to the availability of water, it’s on the backs and heads of women. Even when hand driven water pumps are made available, it is the women who pump and carry the water back to their communities.

The practice of women being responsible for finding and collecting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning is common in many countries. ” They walk miles, carry heavy burdens, wait for hours and pay exorbitant prices. The work is back-breaking and all-consuming. Often the water is contaminated, even deadly. In these instances, they face an impossible choice – certain death without water or possible death from illness.” You can learn more about women and the water crisis at water.org.

Living in southern Arizona one is frequently reminded of the need for sustainable water sources, and global warming will continue to challenge our ability meet water needs. An article in today’s New York Times, “A Parched and Sinking Capital — Mexico City’s Water Crisis Pushes It Toward the Brink,”  is one more reminder of the social, economical and health issues caused by the water crisis.

— kenne

RainbowRural Nicaraguan girls start at a young age carrying water for their families.

 

 

Standing At The Altar Of Nature   Leave a comment

SCVN Day 1Naturalist David Lazaroff and several other naturalists with the 2011 SCVN Training Class, Day 1 — Image by kenne

I was a member of the 2011 Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN) class. During the fall training I wrote the following poem, posting it on this blog:

STANDING AT THE ALTAR OF NATURE 

When we stand
at the altar of nature,
we stand with the greats;
Ralph Waldo Emerson,
Henry David Thoreau,
and John Muir,
each having helped define
our relationship
with nature and language –
“every natural fact is a symbol
of some spiritual fact,
. . . words are signs of natural facts.”

Nature’s beauty becomes
a source of spiritual energy
connecting all things
into a universal whole
with the energy of our
thoughts and will.

We stand at nature’s altar
not separate from her,
seeing her in the flowers,
insects, animals, mountains,
creating a unified landscape
of our inward and outward senses.

Like all relationships,
the experience depends
on the degree of harmony
between us and nature,
therefore becoming a gift
granted while walking with nature
as she is embraced in our minds –
Enlighten, she shares her secrets,
making the universe more “transparent.”
Yet the gift may only offer a glimpse,
to be shared in images and words,
charming all living things.

Commenting on my poem, SCVN member, Walt Tornow, wrote that my poem  ”. . . captures beautifully my feelings about being in the mountains.” He went on to share the following:

GOD, GRACE, AND GRATITUDE

Finding God in the wilderness …

  • The majesty of our mountains, the magnificence of views/ vistas they afford, and the splendor and munificence of the many gifts that nature has to offer
  • The awe and humility that comes from being witness to the grandeur of it all, juxtaposed with realizing the relative smallness and fleetingness of  our existence
  • Never feeling or being alone … lots of company by nature’s creatures, and taking in the beauty of nature’s show
  • Feeling vulnerable, yet trusting, being in the wilderness — potential prey to wildlife, and exposed to the elements
  • Experiencing awe, joy and inspiration by being here
  • Feeling connected … becoming one with myself, with nature, and the universe
  • Finding peace, serenity, and sense of holiness … my place of worship and meditation

 

Here for the grace of God am I …

Grateful to be, to be here, and be given the opportunity and capacity to enjoy the many gifts/ blessings around me.

– Walt Tornow

If you feel our passion for nature, we want to share it with you by inviting you to become a Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalist.

We are currently recruiting people who share our passion for nature
to take part in our 2017 SCVN Training Class from the beginning of October to January.

After completing the training you will start next January teaching kindergarten and/or elementary students approximately 1 morning per week. All training curriculum materials provide for an excellent learning experience, along with many guest nature experts.

Additionally, you can take part in adult Public Interpretations nature programs about Sabino Canyon.

You can learn more about this wonderful volunteer nature program and get an application by visiting our website 

www.sabinonaturalists.org/

Please pass on this information on to persons you will be interested in becoming an SCVN member. Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have — kenneturner@gmail.com

kenne

Strike It RichNaturalist, Gwen Swanson, demonstrates “panning” to students in the “Strike It Rich” program.
This creekside activity allows children to learn about the difference between rocks and minerals
by panning for garnets in the sand along Sabino Creek, and the importance of water in forming the canyon.
Image by kenne

SCVN Nature Walk #1SCVN Training nature walk with naturalist, Bill Kaufman (Fall 2011) — Image by kenne

Cactus Wren   Leave a comment

cactus-wren-0298-art-blogCactus Wren (Sabino Canyon, December 26, 2016) — Image by kenne

“Everyone likes birds.
What wild creature is more accessible
to our eyes and ears,
as close to us and everyone in the world,
as universal as a bird?”

— David Attenborough

Two-Tailed Swallow Butterfly Art   Leave a comment

Southern California September 2012Two-Tailed Swallow On Mexican Bird of Paradise: the Last Signs of Summer — Computer Art by kenne

As far nature,

it is not what it is

that interests me,

but what it becomes.

— kenne

 

 

National Public Lands Day — Before and After   2 comments

invasive-plants-1-of-1-pappas-grass-before-blogBefore Image by kenne

This is a before snapshot of soft feather pappus grass in and area where Sabino Canyon Volunteer Naturalists (SCVN)would be removing invasive plants. Our focus would be to clear this area where we teach elementary children about nature, October through April.

pappus-grass-after-blogAfter Image by kenne

This after image illustrates how effective invasive plants are at crowding out native plants.

diamondback-blogRattlesnake Image by kenne

Removing invasive plants requires a lot of caution, keeping an eye out for rattlesnakes. There is a western diamondback rattlesnake in this image, which is a good example of how well the blend into grass. The snake is coiled center-right in this image.

This Is Not In The Tropics   4 comments

A Natural Dam (1 of 1) blogMountain Dam in the Santa Catalina Mountains — Image by kenne

Diverse is the word

Sonoran desert by name

The land of contrast.

— kenne

Golden Columbine   Leave a comment

Aspen Loop To Wilderness RocksGolden Columbine — Computer Art image by kenne

Why should we think upon things that are lovely? Because thinking determines life. It is a common habit to blame life upon the environment. Environment modifies life but does not govern life. The soul is stronger than its surroundings.

— William James

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