Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Nature of Smith Lake

 When I visited Smith Lake today it brought back great memories.  I studied natural history, ecology, and parasitology in the Deep South, first at Tulane then University of Florida. We did a great deal of field work in the swamps of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida.  We had rain every month and annual totals two to three times that of Quincy.  So, after a few weeks of very hot and dry weather, it was a pleasure to visit a swamp.  People used to swimming and boating in places like Tahoe and Almanor might find a place like Smith Lake ugly, but I find it beautiful. 
 As we scrambled through thick stands of Spiraea, Serviceberry, and different grasses and sedges, we heard dozens of frogs croak as they scampered across the muddy shoreline and hid amongst the lily pads.  I was surprised that we saw no snakes, but I'm sure they were there.  We also scared up a Great Blue Heron and a few pairs of ducks.
 There were huge patches of mint looking as fresh as they did in spring.  
 The leaves of pond lilies were stranded in mid-air as the evaporating lake sunk below them.  I didn't bring my telephoto lens, or I could have gotten lots of great pictures of dragonflies and damsel flies.
 Some of the larger snags that had been standing in the lake a couple of summers ago had fallen, but this large trunk near the shore was still impressive and was a home to many different invertebrates.
 The most noticeable was the home of a funnel spider.  It was incredibly hot this afternoon, and humid near the lake, so we didn't linger.  I plan to visit again soon in the morning so I can relax while seeking photos of insects, spiders and flowers.
 The Gooseberries along the road encircling the lake were abundant and nearly ripe.  Another reason for  return visit.
 As we drove through a dense, shady stretch of forest upon leaving the lake, this break in the trees gave us one last look at the beautiful swamp. 

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