I came across some unexpected sights on my morning walk in Shakerag Hollow. Water was snaking its way through the tangle of rocks and leaf piles that form the boundaries of the little streams on the mountain slope. As the water flowed, the barriers in its way created little falls which emptied into eddies in pools below. All this tumbling motion stirred up air bubbles that turned in slow circles on surface of the pools.
I watched this gentle gyration for some time before my eye caught what was happening below. The bubbles acted as lenses, refracting the sunlight that was coming in at a low angle through the trees. The streambed was covered in underwater stars, each one gliding behind a bubble.
As the light angled through the bubbles, its constituent wavelengths were teased out. Seen close, the stars were edged with prismatic color. Rain can bow the light, even when the rain is old and earth-bound (or, if we look forward, so young that it has not yet risen to the sky). Bubbles were not the only objects drifting on the water’s surface. Leaves and the shells of hickory nuts floated past.
I’m guessing that the eggs were deposited by an aquatic snail. (I’d be happy to be corrected or further enlightened about this guess — I have found no adult snails in this stream which makes me suspect that I’m mistaken. Addendum: these are caddisfly eggs. Thank you David Johnson and Dave McLain for clarifing.) The caddisfly probably flew here from downstream to lay eggs in the water. The adults of many stream insects have an instinct to move upstream when they are ready to breed, counteracting the inevitable downstream flow of aquatic larvae and nymphs.
I took particular pleasure in seeing these two rafters. This is the stream that a few months ago was choked with silt from erosion on the golf course construction site. I took the eggs and the recolonizing caddisfly as signs that, although the stream is still severely impacted by sediment, some aquatic animals have persisted here and others are returning. Soon, I hope, young caddisflies and snails will join the bubbles and stars swimming and crawling in the stream’s waters.