Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Wednesday Explorers Club ~ Strider Babies!

Strider babies at Baxter State Park (photo by Martha Mitchell)

About a month ago my friend and naturalist, Martha Mitchell, was exploring Baxter State Park in Maine. They were camping at the Northwest Cove campsite (you can get there by hiking or canoeing) when she saw a hatch of water striders. Like all members of the Wednesday Explorers Club, she had both her camera and her journal at hand.

page from Martha's field journal
"Tens of thousands of tiny young/ baby water striders skate on the calm water surface near the shore of the cove," she wrote. She measured the area they covered: 10 to 15 feet wide by 50 feet long. They were in constant motion.

"They move with the blowing wind and scatter when I stand or move... some hop on the surface... A hunting dragonfly occasionally dips to the water's surface for a meal. When the wind dies down, the striders move as a group to deeper water; then back toward shore when it picks up again."

As evening drew on, striders still covered the water's surface. Fish rose to the surface to feed, eating many of the striders, she noted.

The next morning the wind was gone. "The lake's surface is smooth - except for dimples like those made by raindrops. Looking closer... the dimples move." Water striders! still there, spread out across the lake. Martha paddled out onto the water, drifted awhile to watch the striders.

"They skated around in a seemingly random pattern, pausing only to change direction or take a smaller insect in its mouth. Periodically one would jump straight up into the air or dive beneath the water's surface. Striders that had captured small insects were chased by other striders who tried to steal the food."  

 More cool stuff about Water Striders:

Notes about life and ecology of water striders.
Seven Cool Facts about Water Striders.
video of water strider hunting flies

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