Archive for August, 2009

chelydra serpentina   8 comments

Posted at 6:07 pm in reptiles

Chelydra serpentina

through tangled
emergents,
a mossy boulder
lurches forth

great clawed feet
plow and paddle
a mucky furrow
to water’s edge

beaked maw agape,
soft pink tongue coils
as cudgel head
swings mightily

bear-trap jaws
snap closed tightly
as my canoe
drifts into view

head retracts,
buried in slimy
leech-encrusted folds
of telescoping neck

unblinking,
two gold-rimmed pupils
regard me with
some suspicion

pushing off,
the snapper cruises
slowly by the
starboard gunwale

ancient eyes turn
to inspect
what appears to be
a common specimen

webbed feet wave
dismissively
as saw-toothed tail bends
to steer a new course.

trailing a filmy
algae veil
the sharp-keeled carapace
drifts into the murky deep.

Bev Wigney ©2009

~ * ~

Yes, I know. Rather a departure from the usual fare on this blog. However, I needed a place to post an image and poem created for the ekphrasis forum on the new Read Write Poem website. I would encourage all poets and lovers of poetry to visit RWP and do consider joining.

Now, about the above photo. It was taken several years ago during a stream survey on the Jock River just west of Ottawa, Ontario. A friend first spotted this very large Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) looking like a great boulder nestled in emergent vegetation along the water’s edge. The above poem was inspired by the photo, but combines a couple of other snapping turtle encounters from my many years of paddling in eastern Ontario. On one occasion, while Don and I were taking a lunch break on Morton Creek, I had my feet dangling in the water cooling off, when a huge snapper surfaced with mouth open just as I happened to pull my foot back in over the gunwale. It slowly drifted back and forth surveying us from above and just below the surface. I suspect that it was attracted by my toes splashing on the surface. In the past, watersnakes have come to me when I’ve been splashing about on the water’s edge in places where there are frogs, so assume that sound, vibration, and water agitation do attract these reptiles.

Apart from poetry, there’s just a little new to report since my last post. I continue to be busy moving the last of my belongings into a storage locker. There’s just a little more work to do on the van to make it roadworthy as a camper vehicle. In spare moments, I’ve been going over maps and plotting a route that will take us to many camp sites between Ontario and British Columbia. I’ve been asking friends for ideas on favourite places to camp or hike anywhere along my route. Around mid-October, I plan to cross into the U.S. to wander down the west coast before making my way to southeast Arizona for the winter. Along the way, I hope to write, draw, paint and catch up on some reading. As many of you know, the past couple of years have been incredibly intense, and the two years before weren’t much better, so I’m looking forward to some real down-time, exploring the road less-traveled, with Sage and Sabrina.

Written by bev on August 11th, 2009

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in a holding pattern   20 comments

Posted at 8:32 pm in insects

Chalcosyrphus curvaria

Six weeks since my last post. It’s probably time to write something to avoid the necessity of assembling a search party. The title of this post succinctly describes where things stand as of today.

In no particular order:

* We (Sabrina, Sage and I) are still here in eastern Ontario.
* The “new” (previously enjoyed) van finally arrived from the states.
* The farm is still for sale.
* Most of the contents of the house have been moved to a storage locker until next year.
* For several reasons, we never went to Nova Scotia in search of property.
* I have not decided where we will live if and when the farm is sold.
* I’m making arrangements and getting things prepared for the next few months of travel.

Apart from the above, the only thing of any real note as far as activity has been that I participated in a bioblitz in the Lanark Highlands area last weekend. It was nice to get away from the farm and see a few of my “biology friends”. I haven’t been up into that area since a couple of months before Don died last year. Our last trip up there was to Baird Woods. I stopped off there for a few moments and it is just as I remember, but seems a little strange to me now.

The bioblitz was held at the Alba Wilderness School near Flower Station. Most of my own sightings were of insects I’ve seen before, but the above fly, Chalcosyrphus curvaria, was a new one for me. I like the “black stockings” on those orange legs. Very flashy, indeed! (Click on all images for larger views).

dorsal view of what is probably Laphria thoracica

Around home, let’s start with an insect sighting, and take it from there.

In early July, I found this huge bumblebee mimic, which is actually a robber fly — I believe it’s Laphria thoracica. I’ve included both a dorsal and lateral view so that you can get a good look at how much it manages to look like a bee while having the typical features of a fly — a single set of wings with just small knobby “halters” in place of the second set of wings, and short joined, stalk-like antennae between the eyes, instead of separate antennae. It also has a beak-like mouth for biting captured prey.

lateral view of what is probably Laphria thoracica

I wish I had more to report about insects, but I’ve been preoccupied with much less interesting activities such as moving belongings to a storage locker, and trying to keep the place tidy while a stream of gawkers comes by to take a look and occasionally make offers. To say that it’s not exactly a picnic would be accurate, but we’re managing okay. So, to while away the time, I’ve been plotting our escape route once I’ve got a few more things taken care of around here. I’ve pretty much arrived at the decision that, unless a good offer happens along in the next few weeks, I’ll be renting out the place for the winter and leave any other decisions until spring. Seems like a workable strategy.

lateral view of Dodgerus ramia dustica

One of my diversions over the past couple of months has been getting our wheels ready for this winter’s wanderings. As some of you know, I bought this van back in May. It took awhile to arrive here in Canada as it had to be shipped up from the southeastern U.S. In the end, a small army of turtles could probably have been employed to tow it here and probably would have arrived sooner, but eventually it was delivered in good order. It’s looking rather dusty in the above photo which was taken on a day after it had been busily transporting belongings to a storage locker located along a gravel road not far from here. However, when washed, it’s a pretty, shiny thing which is pleasing enough to look upon. The interior seems cavernous — or, at least it did seem that way until filled with a mattress on a pine frame above a storage space. Add two collie dogs and all of a sudden the size is somewhat diminished, but it is still far more comfortable than the little Windstar in which Sabrina and I set out last autumn.

So, for now, I’m taking care of a bunch of business that needs done before we leave. Last week, I bought a USB modem and arranged for wireless service for on the road. This is a new experiment for me. I’ve tried it out a couple of times while out and about and it works fairly well. It will be interesting to see how well it performs once we’re really “on the road”. Our route is slowly taking shape and looks as though it will roughly follow last year’s journey west out to B.C., then down into the states. Tentatively, I expect to spend several weeks along the Oregon and northern California coasts, and in the redwoods before swinging east to Arizona. I’m also feeling some twinge of desire to revisit the Steens Mountains region of central Oregon (last visited in 2006), so that might figure in our travels as well. As recently stated to a good friend, my plans are entirely nebulous these days. In fact, lately, my life is looking suspiciously like the photo in the above link.

Okay, that’s it for updates. I promise not to stay away quite so long next time. What has everyone else been up to lately? Hopefully, your summer has been better and more productive than mine.

Written by bev on August 1st, 2009

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