Chasing dragons

The scientists’ children ate our weird food with gusto. “We like trying new things,” they said.

“If someone served you escargots, would you try it?” I asked.

“Sure,” they said.

And as soon as supper was over, they were right back outside.

millipede on hand

Their parents had gone off down the mountain with a couple other ornithologists to survey the spot where they planned to construct a blind and spring-net trap for banding golden eagles on migration, later this fall. The impulse to hunt and capture fierce winged beings seems to be in their blood.

mantis on arm

Jeffrey was immensely proud of the male praying mantis he had found before supper and decided to keep as a pet, and he continued to address it in terms of endearment even though it delivered painful bites every chance it could get. His younger sister Ashley wasn’t shy about playing with the beast, either, and when my father spotted a dense swarm of green darners up on the barn bank, she raced back and forth for ten minutes, desperate to catch one.

Plummer’s Hollow gets a fair number of younger visitors, but I haven’t been so strongly reminded of my own childhood in a long time.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

18 Comments


  1. I loved the video. Simple, immediate, personal, fascinating and aesthetically satisfying as they circle, circle… and Ashley circles in her very different way… with both mind and feet… and we ‘see’ the adults in the outer circle off camera too.

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  2. reminds me of my childhood too, Dave
    (and, truth be told, I’m no different today)
    that is a GORGEOUS mantis!!!!!!
    I’m SO envious

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  3. REALLY enjoyed this, though watched it without sound (at ref. desk) if only Ashley could fly…

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  4. The sound in the video is its own story, a separate but equal and engaged partner to the visual. Thank you for this bit of light — marvelous post.

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  5. Oh, yes, MB has it right. Thanks for this light! Little boy experts are the truest experts.

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  6. Glad y’all liked it. The boy (who is 12) speaks with authority, but I don’t believe he’s right about it being a migration flight; according to the books, this species often swarms as part of a hunting and mate-competition behavior. Though it is certainly a migratory species. Regardless, Jeffrey is pretty high-powered. He’s already doing volunteer work at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s lepidoptera collection, pinning and spreading new specimens and helping to collate data from historical collections. Much like my older brother was at his age. (I was more like Ashley, always playing catch-up.)

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  7. Ha! That’s a great video clip. I love how Ashley joins into the chaotic flight in pursuit of a dragon. Reminds me a lot of my own childhood too (and some would probably say I’m still living it).

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  8. I think it is wonderful that a youngster can speak knowledgeably about natural events in Mexico!

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  9. pablo – I would guess he’s accompanied one or both parents to the “river of raptors” hawkwatch in Veracruz more than once. His dad has travelled all over the hemisphere doing bird research.

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  10. I would run around like Ashley trying to catch a dragon myself, if I thought it would work. There are days, I must admit, that I probably look a bit like that except I’m holding the camera and following the erratic flight path of something. In fact, it was only yesterday…

    Great video and story, dave.

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  11. The millipede and the mantis being held by a child really adds to the pics. It exudes hope. Headline, “Smart, Curious Children who Love Nature Maintain Good Cheer Despite Inheriting a World Almost Destroyed by Thoughtless Adults.”

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  12. Hey Shai, you’re back! That was some hiatus you took.

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  13. Delightful. In Greece letting a mantis walk over your hand is supposed to be lucky.

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