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