Downpours in Darkwoods

Something we have all taken for granted the past six weeks was the weather. Thus far on our trip we have had amazing weather…very little rain, lots of sunshine. We had to work in a little drizzle a few times and we had to deal with some wet vegetation but that was the worst of it. So the weather in Darkwoods was a bit of a change for us. Throughout the week it rained and stormed and even when the sun came out there was always a threatening cloud nearby.  We all got used to getting a little wet and working in our rain gear but the rain also makes catching insects a lot harder! We sweep along the vegetation with our nets so wet vegetation means wet nets. Insects are easily damaged in a wet net and usually harder to pick out when we empty our nets. Also there are usually fewer insects out when it’s wet so we tend not to catch as many. We were lucky enough to fit in a few drier sweeps during some brief sunny periods.

A double rainbow over Kootenay Lake
A double rainbow over Kootenay Lake

Also along with the bad weather come some good things. On our first night in Darkwoods there was a huge storm in the evening which we watched from the safety of the little cabin we were staying in. Shortly after the storm ended we looked out at Kootenay Lake and saw a lovely rainbow rising up from the lake. It wasn’t long before a second rainbow appeared and we had a great view the lake, the mountains and two rainbows as the sun broke through the clouds.

Mating dragonflies with the female (bottom) eating a wasp
Mating dragonflies with the female (bottom) eating a wasp

One morning as we were getting ready for the day’s work, I was watching a pair of mating dragonflies flying around near the car. They landed on a tree branch above me and watching them when I noticed a long thin red thing moving around near the female dragonfly’s head. I could not tell what it was for sure but my first thought was maybe it was a parasite? I quickly grabbed my binoculars from the car to get a closer look and I got my answer. The long thin red thing was the body of a wasp but the wasp was not parasitizing the dragonflies, the female dragonfly was in the middle of eating him! Most of the wasp was already in her mouth and just the slender body remained wriggling around. As I watched, she finished up her snack and shortly the mating dragonflies flew away and continued their business.

Hoary marmot in the perfect camouflaging habitat
Hoary marmot in the perfect camouflaging habitat

Our coolest (and cutest) wildlife spotting in Darkwoods was the hoary marmots (Marmota caligata). There was a pile a rocky rubble right beside the main road, the results of an avalanche, and we slowed down when we passed it and were almost always rewarded with a view of some hoary marmots. They blend in really well with the rocks and dead trees in the environment and they can be hard to spot if you don’t see them moving. We had been keeping our eyes for these little guys since our time at Glacier National Park when one of the park rangers told us about them so it was great to finally see one!

We are now on our way home and our summer adventures are coming to an end. It has been a great time and it will be hard going back to work inside every day after spending all summer working outdoors surrounded by amazing scenery. It has been a great experience and I hope for many more in the coming year of work at the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario.

– Beverly

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