Monday, October 15, 2012

Mono lake flies

 Does anyone remember these ads in the back of Archies comics? I do. Those ads were full of unattainable, fascinating stuff . And I always wondered just what creatures these sea-monkeys were. Even to young kid me, papa monkey and mama monkey sounded a bit unlikely. Yet like a pet I could actually keep in our tiny Bombay house. Equivalent to the caterpillars I kept that became pupae and always ecclosed to butterflies when I was at school.

The first time I saw a sea monkey, ultimately was earlier this year in Mono lake. What they are these things, brine shrimp. And Mono has plenty of them. They feed on microscopic plankton which is so plentiful, it turns the lake green.  Another plentiful creature in the Mono lake ecology is the alakine fly, which also feeds on plankton. All of this plenty at the small size scale, converts to high productivity at the higher size scale and millions of water birds visit the lake. We saw the fag-end of the migration. But we did get to see all the little stuff and the big stuff chasing it, successfully or not.

The cool thing about the flies is that they carpet the shore and when you disturb them, the disturbance travels through the carpet and you get these waves of flies, flying off and landing again behind you. Imagine being the exact opposite of magnetic as you walk through nail filings.

C is usually not that repellant to insects.

It take little to set the flies off and even dainty bird steps will do it.
But there really are a lot of the little blighters. Its a blizzard in fact.
This gave some birds some bright ideas. This California gull thought it was enough to simply run through the swarm with his mouth open. The worst thing is, I suspect it worked. Natural selection isn't what it used to be.
Or at least that's what these guys seem to be thinking
 While we didn't get to see the mass congregations of a few million birds, it's not hard to imagine them there. I suppose I could do worse than go back some day to catch that moment. And perhaps a few more gulls having an easy meal.

Copyright © Natasha Mhatre If you're reading this without attribution to me anywhere other than at my blog Talking Pictures, its probably being plagiarized.

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