Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks — Rusty, Richard and Sydney — from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.
Dawn patrol. It was still dark. Our surf boards rocked beneath us with the motion of the swell. We always savored those precious peaceful moments before the day began. We listened to the sound of the water lapping around our boards, the breaking waves and the soft stirring of the shore birds.
The sun began its day slowly. With a blink and a yawn it gave a good stretch sending out soft tendrils of light across the dark sky. More stirring and another big stretch colored the sky with red, yellow and orange. Finally popping his head off the pillow, the sun lit the sky.
The water had taken on an invigorating chill with the changing season. We shivered a little but smiled when we saw perfect 3- to 5 footers. Giving thanks to the far-away storm that sent them our way we paddled fast and caught our first ride.
The waves were perfectly awesome. It was an effort to tear ourselves away after just a few hours but we had big plans. It was the second Tuesday of the month and that meant we could get into the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for free!
Scrubbed, combed and brushed, we wanted to look our best. We pulled on our dressiest board shorts, buttoned up our most colorful Hawaiian shirts, slipped on our best flip-flops and excitedly rushed out the door to catch the bus.
For this trip we chose to see art of the Pacific, Egyptian art and the South and Southeast Asian art collection. As we entered each collection we felt we had been transported to the places where the beautiful pieces had been created. We also felt we came away knowing more about the people creating them.
We never visit the art museum without also visiting the Page Museum and the La Brea Tar Pits. Rusty would never allow that to happen. If we left it up to him, our entire visit would be spent looking at dinosaur bones and peering into the tar pits.
Rusty could easily be a docent at the Page. Every time we step through the doors he starts narrating as if Richard and I are his out of town guests who are seeing it for the first time. “Over here is where the recovered fossils are cleaned, examined and identified,” he said. “Please step this way to see the bones of a Harlan’s ground sloth that had arthritis and the only known saber tooth cat to be discovered with his mouth closed.” His enthusiasm is infectious.
We were scouting around the edges of a tar pit looking for fossils and trying to imagine a world where giant mastodons, saber tooth cats and ancient bison roamed when Rusty spotted several dragonflies zipping through the air. He is crazy about them. With a whoop of delight he ran after them.
Richard and I rushed to join him. We saw their jewel-like bodies skimming across the water. We settled in to watch for a while as Rusty told us what he learned about them.
Rusty said the ancient ancestors of these dragonflies flew in the skies long before the dinosaurs ever walked on the land. The early dragonflies are called Protodonata and have existed since the Carboniferous Period in the Earth’s history. They were among the first insects on Earth and the largest ever to fly. Some had wingspans of up to 29 inches! They shared the land with early amphibians, first reptiles and wouldn’t you know it, the cockroach.
Dragonflies are fast. Rusty said some can reach speeds of 35 mph. We were amazed as we watched the beauties fly backwards, changed direction in mid-air, stop and hover. Rusty says their flying abilities are so extraordinary that aerospace researchers study their flight control mechanisms to find ways to improve airplanes and spaceships.
Rusty thought that dragonflies were one species we didn’t have to worry about. He said they had adapted, survived and thrived through untold perils for 300 million years. He thought of them as indestructible tough guys on their way to surviving another 300 million years. That was until he learned that one, Hine’s emerald dragonfly, was on the endangered species list.
Rusty thinks Hine’s emerald is one of the most beautiful dragonflies. He loves its brilliant green eyes, and dark metallic green body with its two distinct, creamy-yellow lateral lines.
Hine’s emerald seems to need a somewhat specialized habitat of thin soils over dolomite bedrock with marshes, seeps and sedge meadows. It found such habitat in areas of Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Missouri and Indiana, however, destruction and fragmentation of habitat has placed it in peril and continues to be a primary threat to its recovery.
Rusty says if it could happen to one dragonfly it could happen to all of them. He is working on us to help him create a dragonfly pond in the yard. He says it will save them and help get rid of those pesky mosquitoes.
Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Quackers have a new, amazing Web site! Stories, pictures and a blog at www.thequackers.com.