Crossing the river of fire

I stood atop the spillway dam and faced east, watching sunrise unfold like a warm blanket on a cold night.

The sun rising from behind riparian woods surrounding White Rock Lake (20081004_12985_fa)

Below me at the foot of the dam, oblivious—or at least uncaring—of my presence, a snowy egret (Egretta thula) raced back and forth searching for breakfast.

A snowy egret (Egretta thula) hunting along the base of the spillway dam (20081004_13003)

Even as I watched the bird, a wee bit of movement beside me drew my attention to a long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha sp.) making its way along the concrete wall.

A long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha sp.) walking along the spillway dam (20081004_13011)

I became enamored with the gangly beast and its awkward, almost clumsy approach.  I scooted backward to keep it in view, which offered me a very close peripheral view of more movement on the wall.

Fire ants (a.k.a. red imported fire ant; Solenopsis invicta) relocating a nest on the spillway dam (20081004_13014)

Fire ants (a.k.a. red imported fire ant; Solenopsis invicta).  A lot of them.  The whole column hugging the concrete seam in the wall.  The river of tiny six-legged creatures flowed mostly from the lake side of the wall to the fishery side where I stood.

Fire ants (a.k.a. red imported fire ant; Solenopsis invicta) relocating a nest on the spillway dam (20081004_13015)

I moved away from the wall and from the ants.  I dared not tempt a sting from these tiny giants.  Yet from a few steps away I once again saw the spider, then the ants, then the coming problem the arachnid would face: how to cross the river of fire that stood unwavering in its path.

A long-jawed orb weaver (Tetragnatha sp.) attempting to cross a river of fire ants (a.k.a. red imported fire ant; Solenopsis invicta) busy relocating their nest (20081004_13018)

Seeing the ants carrying pupae and larvae made clear they were relocating their colony.  The tendency of fire ants to attack first and ask questions never would no doubt be amplified with young being carried in the open to a new home.

Fire ants (a.k.a. red imported fire ant; Solenopsis invicta) relocating a nest on the spillway dam (20081004_13019)

It took the spider nearly five minutes to successfully cross over the streaming ants.  A few times a single ant would grab one of the spider’s legs when it came too close, and a few times the spider slipped and almost fell after trying to reach too far in a single step.

But who could blame it for wanting to avoid contact with the ants?  And trust me when I say that the spider’s gangly shape came in handy when crossing the river of fire.  Body held high above the danger, legs stretched as far as they could reach, thin legs and tiny feet needing little space to take hold.

8 thoughts on “Crossing the river of fire”

    1. You know, Ted, I had the same feeling at the time. I didn’t focus on photography and didn’t intend to do anything other than watch the sunrise. It’s nice to just let things happen and wallow in whatever nature throws at me. Those are usually the times when the simplest things stand out in a new way.

  1. uh oh. Fire ants. Don’t like ’em! (though I do like watching them). Those things are kind of evil evil! That’s one thing I’m not really looking forward to about going back to Texas! (but again, i do love watching ants and your photos of them are really excellent!). …the water in the egret shot is soooo serene looking, awesome!

    1. You’re a girl after my own heart, Jill. I like watching fire ants like I enjoy watching everything else in nature, but I don’t like to be close to them. And that would be true even if I didn’t have a deadly allergy to stings. Fire ants are just insane and unpleasant. I’ll watch from a distance, but otherwise I’m not interested.

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