Posts Tagged ‘shadows’

The Post – What to Feed the Babies and How Salty Should the Water Be?

March 1, 2008

Just a reminder that coming up over the next week, the next few installments on the journey of my Under the Pier novel. I had to take a break from those for taxes, actually finishing some more chapter revisions, and of course, taking care of the “grandchildren.” But stay tuned. More to come on Under the Pier.

Re the grandchildren:

What wonderful goings on! Soooo many little black dots in the nursery and they are definitely swimming around. Many are hiding out in the shadows of the live rock caves. So tiny and already they know to hide and avoid “predators.”

I am feeding them three times a day with a mixture of ground up mini-freeze dried krill, some ground up flake food, a few drops of the liquid Small Fry baby fish food, and a little distilled water mixed in. We shall see how it goes. And no, I am not grinding the mini-krill with my husband’s lovely stone mortar and pestle that he uses for grinding up herbs and spices in the kitchen!!

Regarding salinity – it’s a tricky call. While Uca minax, which are the type of fiddler crabs I have, are seen furthest up the estuary in areas of lowest salinity, there seems to be evidence that for at least the first two weeks of their larval development (zoeae) , they actually survive and do better at a higher salinity. However there is also evidence that for the next (megalopae) stage to metamorphose into crab Stage 1, this species does best with the lower salinity seen in the upper estuary environment that the adults live in. I will post more information tomorrow including the links to the two papers I found today on this subject. Long story short today though, is that zoeae of all the species of fiddler crabs, seem to need a couple weeks of “being at sea,” hence higher salinity.

I’ll also explain about the three species used in one of the studies and how their selectivity for salinity levels puts them in different spots in the estuaries and thus probably keeps them from competing with each other for resources and food.

Also to come – I dug out the small microscope I had as a kid and will pick up some microscope slides. So to follow, descriptions of babies, under the glass.

A couple of other notes – courtesy again of my engineer husband. He noted a bunch of white things all over the gravel and wondered if the babies had already molted. Maybe they have but these white dots were too big and irregular in size for baby shells. I believe it’s salt crystals that didn’t dissolve in the water before I added it. I added more water to bring the salinity up closer to a marine environment. I started at 1.010 (brackish) when they were born and over the course of yesterday raised the salinity first to 1.012, then by last night 1.015. Today I’ll finish raising it to 1.020. Then in two weeks I’ll bring it back down to 1.010-1.012, the optimal range for Uca minax adults.

Sand. Again, my husband was watching the babies swim – it is amazing to see these tiny things whiz around the tank – but he shined a light to see if they would follow the beam. The article I posted in yesterday’s gift mentioned that the babies will go to the light. My husband didn’t see evidence of that, but what he noted was that many little babies had worked their way down between the gravel bits, all the way down to the bottom of the tank. Unless they figure out how to get back up to the water, they’ve had it. Now let’s face it. Their parents had a brain the size of a pinpoint. How large a brain do you thing babies the size of a pinpoint have? So the odds of them getting back to the surface are not good. I said “evolution at work. Anybody who tunnels down in the gravel probably won’t live to reproduce. ” My husband noted that gravel is less than optimal for this (engineers talk like this by the way, things are optimal, less than optimal, sub-optimal 🙂 ).

The real important point though was his next comment: “The NEXT time we do this, we should use sand.” There you have it folks. My husband has fallen in love with the fiddler crabs. In all truth, he has. He watches them, thinks about how to make their lives better, anticipates the babies getting ground up in the water filter…..those babies are lucky to have him!!!

Anyway, stay tuned for the links on those two articles about optimal (yes, OPTIMAL) salinity levels for fiddler crab larvae.

 

The Post – Reflections on a Belted Kingfisher

February 7, 2008

The first time I saw the belted kingfisher, I nearly missed him.

It was that brief time in the early morning when the pond and woods behind us are still shrouded in night’s shadows. The sun hasn’t yet come up and the view is mostly dark silhouettes that blend together against the steel-gray mirrored surface of the pond. It’s the time of day when nothing is quite what it seems.

In the pond, there is this large tree trunk that lies on its side, a casualty of Hurricane Fran in 1996 when the wind snapped a large oak tree into three chunks and threw the largest one into the pond. It has remained there since, a gift to the wildlife. Everybody hangs out there, from spiders, fish and ants, to hawks, muskrats (at the same time no less), and ducks. It is the inter-species resting place, the sunning spot for 10 or 12 turtles, and the staging area for birds fishing in the pond.

On this particular morning I looked out, my eyes barely open, at the odd collection of shapes and shadows in the backyard. You couldn’t make out anything clearly. I think if an elephant had been out there, you might just have mistaken it for fog. As my eye skimmed the pond’s surface, I noticed this shape – rather clearly defined, which is why it caught my eye. It looked almost like a bird.

Being a bird-watcher, I immediately woke right up and looked closer. It was the image of a bird, perfectly outlined on the water. But where was the bird? I didn’t see one anywhere. I dug out the binoculars and scanned the area until finally I could make out a similar shape on the tree trunk right above the water. It had blended so well into the darks of the woods behind it, you could barely make it out. I never would have seen it if I hadn’t noticed its reflection in the pond.

It was a belted kingfisher. He is a maniacal-looking bird. He’s got a white ring around his neck that makes it look like he had been leashed, but escaped. His blue-gray feathers stick straight up out of his head like he stuck his foot in an electrical outlet. He has large wild eyes and a fishing technique that would do the Three Stooges proud. Essentially, he jumps up, flaps his wings, then flings himself at the water. He doesn’t so much dive as plows in a full body flop, through the surface of the pond. He’s effective – he always comes up with a fish – but he gets failing grades for aesthetics.

I see him out there a lot now, especially now that I know what to look for. And it’s usually on those foggy mornings.

It occurred to me that life can be like that. There are gifts or important truths, understandings, that we often don’t see. They blend into the background fabric of our lives, and we overlook them unless something reflects them back at us and they catch our eye. Without that moment, we’d never know they were there.

I think the thing I keep in mind now is that Belted Kingfisher rule: When something catches your eye in life’s fog, take the time to look because some things in life can only be seen on reflection. You never know. It might be a gift.