Thursday, June 21, 2012

June 21: Leeches

Some days I really love my job. This afternoon I got to join my director and some volunteers on a site visit by canoe to a property along a pond in Waldo County. We paddled across the pond and up a narrowing, winding inlet, enjoying the birds and other wildlife along the way.

Dragonflies and butterflies dipped in the reeds and cattails. Marsh wrens chattered from shrubs, while swamp sparrows trilled unseen and blackbirds flashed their red epaulettes. A great blue heron flew in and perched on a nearby tree as we paddled past. Along the pond's edges, bullhead lilies and water arum bloomed.
Water Arum
Green frogs croaked like banjos from within the reeds, and in the shallower water, we could see foot-long small-mouth bass lurking in the shadows. Along the inlet, we startled a deer getting a drink, a buck in velvet, and where he'd been, we noticed a beaver trail over which beavers had been dragging trees to enhance their lodge. 
At one point we had to make a short portage over a pile of rocks augmented by beavers--not the hop over sticks pictured above--and it was there I noticed the leeches. They were several inches long, with red bellies, and moved through the water like pieces of ribbon unfurling. I'm not normally a fan of leeches, but today I found them worth watching. Perhaps it was the influence of the landscape around me on this beautiful afternoon. On another day, in another setting, they'd have undoubtedly been creepy--or if one had attached to my foot while I was standing in the shallow water, hauling on the canoe. But today, I found them fascinating. 
See the leech, above the white thing in the lower left?
Even a leech has
its good points: grace in water,
a rouge-red belly.

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