As it was quite hot, and I had worked up quite a sweat with all the balancing, bending, and grabbing, I sat down to enjoy the moment and enjoy the breeze. It was then that I noticed the dragonflies. A large one with unusual brown patches on its wings hovered close by, landed on a rock next to me, then repeatedly flew to stand on a rock a short distance offshore. Further down the reservoir I could see two caramel brown dragonflies chasing each other > then one stood on a branch sticking out of the water. As I continued collecting rubbish I saw a large dragonfly with an iridescent blue head and later a smaller delicate green one with a very thin body. I only have a semi-waterproof point and shoot camera and it is very difficult to focus on a small and flitting insect, but I did try to capture them on film…however seeing them was magical! Four species (and I have no idea which they are) all within a short distance of reservoir bank.
I was curious to learn more about dragonflies (and damselflies- as one or two of the insects may well have been damselflies). From online resources (http://www.21facts.com/animals/dragonflies.php and http://www.odesforbeginners.com/ and a New Jersey reference- http://www.njodes.com/default.htm) I learned that:
Dragonflies are part of the Odonata order, which also includes damselflies. There are 5000 species around the world; there are~ 400 in the US. Dragonflies spend most of their lives in the larva stage (up to three years, depending on the species). The adult, winged stage only lasts a few weeks. Mating is the primary reason for their winged stage. Male dragonflies can be very territorial, staking claim to a particular area alongside a pond or stream. When you see two adults chasing each other through the air, it is often one male chasing another from its territory (I saw this) Dragonflies prey on other creatures through their entire life cycle. As larva in bodies of water, they prey on other small creatures (mosquito larva, tiny fish, etc.). As adults, they eat other flying insects. Because dragonflies have 2 pairs of wings, the y can fly sideways and backwards and hover. They can fly up to speeds of 30mph (no wonder my camera was quite useless). They have large multifaceted eyes and can see nearly 360’ at all times. Dragonflies are ancient insects and have existed on Planet Earth for approximately 300 million years
So what does this have to do with tennis balls or trash and pollution in a watershed? These beautiful and fascinating insects are really only noticeable when they are in their winged form- a few short weeks in the summer, but this is only a tiny part of their 3 year lifespan. The NJ website (above) makes it very clear >> Dragonflies need clean water. Do your part to protect our watersheds.
The NJ Department of Environmental Protection has a lot of information about the topic of “Nonpoint Source Pollution, or people pollution, (which) is a contamination of our ground water, waterways, and ocean that results from everyday activities such as fertilizing the lawn, walking pets, changing motor oil and littering. With each rainfall, pollutants generated by these activities are washed into storm drains that flow into our waterways and ocean. They also can soak into the ground contaminating the ground water below. Each one of us, whether we know it or not, contributes to nonpoint source pollution through our daily activities. As a result, nonpoint source pollution is the BIGGEST threat to many of our ponds, creeks, lakes, wells, streams, rivers and bays, our ground water and the ocean. The collective impact of nonpoint source pollution threatens aquatic and marine life, recreational water activities, the fishing industry, tourism and our precious drinking water resources. Ultimately, the cost becomes the burden of every New Jersey resident. But there’s good news – in our everyday activities we can stop nonpoint source pollution and keep our environment clean. Simple changes in YOUR daily lifestyle can make a tremendous difference in the quality of New Jersey’s water resources”. http://www.nj.gov/dep/watershedrestoration/waterbook_tble.html
Don’t pollute. Track down your tennis balls from missed shots, recycle plastic bottles, don’t dump chemicals down storm drains, use less fertilizer…and maybe dragon flies and damselflies will be around for the next 300 million years!