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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dragonfly Feast (With a Realization)

I was sitting at my computer pounding out one thing or another when movement outside the window at my left caught my attention. There was a swarm of large flying insects flitting back and forth making aerial acrobatics. They seemed to be flying randomly around the back yard. The frame of the window made it impossible for me to determine just how many insects there were.

Dragonfly eating an emergent Stinkbug.

I stopped and went out on the deck to see more of what was going on. The bugs were dragonflies. Dozens of them speeding back and forth making impossible turns in mid flight and pivoting once again in this mid-afternoon spectacle. I moved further away from the back door and the sun illuminated the reason for the amazing antics of the dragonflies.

Tiny fluffs of another insect were rising out of the grass and floated upward as the dragonflies snapped them up and turned for the next one. These smaller bugs were mosquitoes and they were making a feast for the dragons. Hundreds if not thousands of them became a meal for the predators that flew far faster and with superior agility. I watched for several minutes before returning to the computer and Googling: What do dragonflies eat.

The results confirmed my observations and showed my several YouTube video clips of everything one might want to see about dragonflies, and more. One site asserted that if I had lots of dragonflies around, it meant that the area was environmentally clean since the dragons were quite sensitive to contaminants.

This made perfect sense since I do not poison my grass nor fertilize it to make it better looking. The boy I pay to gut the grass uses a mulching mower that puts all the cuttings back into the soil. Hand weeding of the occasional dandelion and chick weed takes care of that.

A few days later I observed a swarm of dragonflies debugging my front lawn too. Across the street and on both side of my yard there were no feasts going on. Either I am the only one with "a lawn picnic" of insects or the other lawns are inhospitable to the dragons.

Later in the summer I will be welcoming the mantises that frequent my pine bushes for the feast that will be there.
The Realization: I read a web article that credited the warmer climate of Europe for the northern migration of mosquitoes. The little buggers are adaptive in that even in the presence of drought conditions they seem to be able to grow faster in the warmer days. While my back yard is in that newly developing sub-tropical climate of Maryland, USA, and the dragonflies love the area, so do the mosquitoes. The arrival of the Dragons coincides with the massive population burst of the mosquitoes. We have been getting almost daily rain in Central Maryland for the month of August 2012. Although not necessarily a pool of standing water, my backyard might have small breeding puddles down in the mat of grass that covers the soil like a carpet.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

So We Say Goodbye To One of Our Own

Ericka and her mother have been long-standing members of the Car 5 Gang. Others have come and gone while still others changed schedule and took up on earlier or later trains. Some, like the Princess, have moved on to other endeavors such as out of state colleges or different jobs that do not require commuting on the MARC. New family members take their precedence as in the case of our “Bicycle Coastguard Girl” who traded her folding bike and daily commute for now two little girls.

On July 24, of this year, Ericka made her last run with us in favor of a new house south of where she works rather than our northern location. In honor of that departure her mother and Trish organized a pizza and beer commute to celebrate our grief at her departure. The train itself did what it could to almost quash the party by having funky doors that were not being cooperative. Our train boarding time was shortly delayed while the maintenance crew worked on them. The sledge hammer that was stood up along the narrow platform 13 seemed incongruous but was not actually used in the door repair procedures.

For our celebration Larry, Sam and Shelly all opted for the later 5:20 train home in order to attend our celebration.

At one point Trish phoned to say that she was almost to Union Station and that she needed help carrying in all the supplies. I told her I’d come if necessary and she said that she left messages with two other people to meet her if possible. Noise levels were high at Union Station and the conversation difficult. Shelly and Jan and I went to the second car doors to await the authorization to enter when they got the door closers synchronized, or whatever they needed to accomplish. That is when Trish called again and said she was there by the elevator and needed the carry assistance.

I could not reach George or Mike who were still back by the waiting room so I started back to get to Trish. I med George along the way and passed the mission off to him. He passed Mike and the two of them went on the mission to bring the pizza and beer back to the train. Jan, Shelly and I occupied our end of the train to protect it from interlopers who would take up our party space. A short time later, Mike, George and Trish arrived with the supplies and we all congregated within the next few minutes.

We missed Billy, Big Bobbert, Diane and a myriad of folks who have not been around for our irregular partying. Chris, Mark, the other Mark, “Raven” and Gerry. Some of them are just on different schedules and someone knows where they are. Others have just faded into the mythology of the Car 5 Gang.