Nature’s Jewels

Sometimes I have to stop and reorient myself to the magic of nature in front of me. Is it a human tendency to not see what’s obvious? Are we always looking for the grand and glorious without actually realizing the magic right in front of us? I’m not sure what the answer is to that one. I just know sometimes I have to stop. Slow down. And bring back that inner wonder of a 4-year old child that really does see it.

On a hike this past week, the sunlight landed just perfectly on an Ebony Jewelwing damselfly. Now wait…before you close this blog or have your eyes glaze over at the mention of an insect, just take a look at this one. It’s something I’ve not seen till now.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen plenty of Ebony Jewelwings. The one in this photo is a female and is generally described as having brown colored wings with white spots at the tips. But on this day, the sunlight caught this creature and made me truly see why it is called a “jewelwing.” The metallic sheen to the thorax, the look of almost gold threads decorating its wings. Exquisite.

The males are also colorful in their own way with jet black wings and an almost metallic blue abdomen. How did nature create such beautiful colors in such a delicate package? Amazing what we see when we look.

Nature’s jewels come in all colors, whether one is talking about insects or flowers. This one caught my eye as well; I think because the contrasting color combination is so dramatic. Surprising that this little flower fly is only about a half inch long. It’s a Margined Calligrapher – also known as a hover fly. It seeks nectar and pollen. It’s a bee mimic and gains protection from would-be predators as a result. It not only helps pollinate flowers, it also eats aphids from those flowers. A true jewel of nature in many aspects!

And with more flowers coming out in bloom right now, so do more bees. Like this little one. It’s from the genus Melissodes (long-horned bees) but unfortunately this photo isn’t good enough for a species ID. As you can tell by the photo, they’re pretty good pollinators. Only females collect pollen; males do not.

I’m always mesmerized by the coloring of bees, like this Two-Spotted Bumblebee I found on my flowers this week. Dramatic contrast against the vivid purple of the flowers, don’t you think? Ohio has about 10 different species of bumblebees, with the most widespread being the Eastern Common. I’m always thrilled when I find a species that isn’t quite so prolific. Not sure why…guess it’s just recognizing it’s something out of the ordinary.

And, as usual, sometimes when you take photographs you manage to capture more than what your eye originally saw, like in the photo below. I took the photo to capture the bumblebee, not seeing it had a sidekick friend.

The tiny bee to the left could be an Osmia in the genus Agapostemon because it appears to be bright green metallic and carrying pollen on its abdomen. But there are also some cuckoo wasps which look somewhat similar. Just guessing on this one; the photo isn’t clear enough to determine. But still a thrill to catch two bees on this Purple Coneflower.

Sometimes you never know what you might find on flowers, like on this Yellow Pond Lily which was a true surprise upon closer inspection. I saw the bee enter the flower from a distance away and zoomed in to see what it might be, but the damselfly on the edge and the two below on the stem were a true surprise. I do appreciate the zoom on my FZ300!

And speaking of catching a photo of something you weren’t expecting…It took me a while to realize what was happening in this photo. This female Eastern Pondhawk flew off with what looked like a twig in it’s clutches. Curious behavior. Until I looked closer at the photo and realized that “twig” was (unfortunately for the damselfly) lunch for the dragonfly.

Golden hues abound in the summer and catch ones eye. We’re fortunate to be near a very successful breeding ground for Prothonotary warblers. This flooded woody area offers many nest boxes mounted to trees just above the water. Food is plentiful there for them and their young. Catching sight of this winged wonder always makes me smile.

As does this dainty little Summer Azure butterfly. A delicate pale blue with a wingspan of just one inch, it’s a tiny little thing that flits about very quickly. Its size is more apparent when seen on this piece of clover that is commonly found in most yards. Such a delicate little butterfly.

Nature’s jewels…all of them. And they’re all around us if we only take the time to stop. Slow down. And really see what’s in front of us. There’s so many jewels of nature out there that can bring a smile to the face, a lightness to the heart, and yes, even a spring to your step.

Until next time, keep exploring nature up close. I hope you find some jewels of nature that bring you joy.