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Cardinals emerging

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  • Kathy &/or Dave Biggs
    Hi all, I spent the last 2 hours at our friend s, the Conley s, pond, where so many Cardinal Meadowhawks are emerging. What a fantastic experience. We got
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 4, 2008
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      Hi all,

      I spent the last 2 hours at our friend's, the Conley's, pond, where so
      many Cardinal Meadowhawks are emerging. What a fantastic experience.

      We got there about 11:15. The pond was totally in the shade, and about 8
      teneral Cardinal Meadowhawks had overnighted there. 7 had their wings
      open, but one's wings were still in the closed position.

      By 11:30, when the pond had almost gotten the sun on it, we started
      seeing nymph swim up to the surface. Soon the sun was on the pond and
      the 'overnighters' began flying off; the one with the closed wings
      opened them.

      Dave watched one nymph swim up from about 3" underwater, using it's legs
      to swim (I assume they can't 'jet-propel' at this point). There is a lot
      of duckweed and fairy fern (azolla) on their pond. The nymph would come
      to the surface, and crawl up onto the floating duckweed or azolla with a
      bubble of water about it. This would dissipate and then they'd start
      crawling about, seemingly looking for something with height nearby.
      They'd then crawl to the higher vegetation, which in most cases was
      parrot's feather on their pond. The parrot's feather was only rising ~3"
      or less above the water surface.

      After they'd crawled up onto the parrot's feather, they'd wave either
      their front, or back legs several times. Sometimes they'd stay, but
      often they'd plop back down in the water and head towards another plant.
      This would go on for quite a while, easily 20 mins. At first I thought
      the leg waving was to test the strength of the plant they were on. Later
      I thought it might be 'loosening' the legs from inside the exoskeleton.
      But then later we thought it was their testing to see, esp. with the
      hind legs, that they were far enough out of the water that their wings
      wouldn't touch when they emerged. I assume reaching with the front legs
      would test that nothing was blocking them in front.

      I followed one who eventually gave up on the plants and decided to
      emerge on one of the rocks lining the pond circumference. I was able to
      actually see it work to get it's legs in the 'final' position and then
      start to dry out. Soon a tiny crack appeared crosswise just behind the
      eyes. Then from the center of this crack the exoskeleton began to split
      lengthwise. It took awhile and then the eyes started rising out from the
      eye area, and then the rest of the emergence went as I had seen before.
      It took him about 15 mins to pull his head, thorax and legs from the
      exuvia. He then spent at least 15 mins. hanging before he lurched
      forward, pulled the rest of his abdomen out and began to pump his wings
      up. All the nymphs observed emerging the last 3 days at their pond were

      The day was fairly cool, only ~60 and a slight overcast began. It took
      about 2 hrs before he flew off. We were able to watch about 20 nymph
      become dragonflies, while another 5 nymph were still climbing about when
      we left. At least twice we saw nymph crawl almost over where another
      nymph that was already emerging was hanging limply. Once the emerger was
      just trying to lurch forward and almost got knocked back into the water.
      That might explain the 4 'floaters' we found - emergers that had fallen
      back into the water the day before.

      It was a wonderful thing to behold all this activity. Their pond is
      literally FULL of underwater plants, and this many Cardinals were
      emerging even though they have mosquito fish in the pond. Our own pond
      has few plants, and no Cardinals emerging, although two mostly mature
      males are claiming territory on it already.

      Thanks Gloria and Harry!!

      California Dragonflies http://www.sonic.net/dragonfly
      Southwest Dragonflies http://southwestdragonflies.net/
      Bigsnest Wildlife Pond http://www.bigsnestpond.net/
      Kathy and Dave Biggs bigsnest@... 707-823-2911
      308 Bloomfield Rd. Sebastopol, CA 95472
      dba Azalea Creek Publishing azalea@... fax: 707-823-2911
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