Photo of the Week – March 2, 2018

Over the last three days, I’ve given three presentations and led a workshop.  I think I’m running out of words.  There’s no question I’ve run out of the desire to be around people.  I say this in defense of what is going to be a late and very short post at the end of this long week.

I scanned quickly through my February photos tonight and found two that are very different in scale.  One from early February is a close up of a grazed plant in the snow.  The other is a shot of Sandhill cranes that have been pouring into the Platte River this week as part of their annual migration.  I hope you enjoy this very brief (and admittedly lazy) overview of February on the Platte River of Nebraska.  I’m going to bed.

Some kind of plant that was nipped off by some kind of animal. Stiff goldenrod? Rabbit? Platte River Prairies, Nebraska.
Sandhill cranes on a mostly frozen Platte River this week.

Photo of the Week – February 8, 2018

Some aquatic insects can survive being encased in ice – water boatmen, for example, or dragonfly larvae.  But what happens if they are frozen near the surface of a pond and the ice around them melts (or sublimates), leaving them exposed to the air when they thaw out?  This is what I was wondering last weekend, as I poked around the icy wetland at our family prairie.

A frozen dragonfly larva in the wetland of our family prairie.

As I wandered around our wetland, I found several dragonfly larvae and a couple other aquatic insects frozen at or near the surface of the ice.  I’m still trying to puzzle out how they got there.  My best guess is that they must have been swimming near the surface as the water around them neared its freezing point.  Maybe they got cold enough they couldn’t swim back down before the water around them froze?  Regardless, there they were, right at the surface.  In some cases, they were partially exposed to the air as the ice was melting and/or sublimating from around them.

Another dragonfly larva – this one was upside down when it froze.

Dragonfly larvae breathe through gills, which I assume means they can’t survive for long out of water.  They can apparently survive being frozen, at least for a while, but I assume they only survive if they thaw out underwater where they can breathe.  If they thaw out on top of a frozen pond, that seems like a really bad outcome…  If so, the larvae I was seeing were either already dead or doomed to be so.

Gusts of wind were blowing snow across this partially exposed dragonfly larva on the surface of the ice.

I’m still not sure why the larvae would have been swimming near the water’s surface as it froze, or if that’s what actually happened.  It’s not an isolated incident – I find insects near the frozen surface of wetlands and ponds pretty frequently.  Anyone have a great explanation for what’s happening?