The Generalist


Part of my daily routine includes a walk in the park where I practice being as aware of my surroundings as possible. These are techniques I learned reading Tom Brown Jr.’s nature observation and tracking guides, but is also something that I think comes from just being interested in a lot of different things. Aside from Tom Brown’s ‘splatter vision’ which I read about it some years ago and have made a habit, I find that the best way to develop awareness is to pick out something that interests you and start looking for it. Eventually, you can spot it anywhere. At that point, you move on to something else. Before you know it, you can spot a lot of things without even looking. That’s probably why when I first went bird watching some years ago, I spent the entire day in sub-zero temperatures seeing nothing but tree limbs and today I am usually the only one who even notices the birds.

Anyway, by now I have an eye for wildlife, especially bugs (smile).

On my latest walk in the park I came across this tree limb, which is absolutely covered in springtails.

Limb of tree covered with springtails
Limb of tree covered with springtails

They’re hard to see in this picture, try this one:

Closer view of tree covered with springtails
Closer view of tree covered with springtails

See those tiny black dots? No? Okay, how about this:

Even closer, but this doesn't give you any idea how many there are (a lot)
Even closer, but this doesn't give you any idea how many there are (a lot)

They are pretty small. How about this:

Springtails as big as I can make them with this little point and shoot...

Hungry little buggers.

Anyway, I knew they were springtails, but I didn’t know what kind. After a little internet research, I’ve decided they are Neanura muscorum, although I am really not certain of that. If anyone has any idea, do let me know, as I like to ID animals whenever possible – it gives me a name for the face (smile) – and also let’s me discover something about them, although frankly, I can find next to nothing about the habits of this particular species. Any entomologists out there?

From the little that I do know about springtails, they are not necessarily a bad sign for the tree – although the missing bark might be.

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