Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bees, Ducks, and Baby Bullheads

Returning from a funeral in Ottawa on the 18th of July, I stopped to visit my favorite spot on the Jock River. The riffle, at summer low-water, was a pattern of dry stepping stones emerging from a cobbled bottom tapestried with fluffy yellow-green filamentous algae.

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Several Honey Bees were roving about, sipping at the soft wet algal fringes of my stepping stones.

Honey Bees sipping wet algae

A female Mallard was quietly minding her own business, leading her three nearly full-grown ducklings to dabble in the shallows. One, which seemed darker plumaged than the others, napped on a stone.

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I searched about for clams and crayfish among the stones, not willing to get my feet wet today, but all I found were a few clam shells and the shed skin of a Crayfish. No Zebra Mussels. If they're here, they are not obvious yet. The smaller shells were Strophitus undulatus, the clam that fascinated Fred at this place when he began to study fresh water unionids a decade ago. Then I pulled a heavy dark, slightly gaping, empty pair of valves from the crevice in which the owner, a Lampsilis, had lived for several decades. This clam measures 138mm long x 80mm high -- well into the "largest invertebrate animal" class.

Gathering a small handful of Viviparus snail shells, also empty, I noticed a movement, black and roiling, a school of little Brown Bullheads, Icthalurus nebulosus, velvety black and heavily whiskered, about 4cm long. The parents must be elsewhere, shepherding the rest of their family. These are very shy, and I took many photos of nearly nothing as they sheltered away from my closely looming shape.

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