Saturday, April 02, 2011

Small Winter Stonefly

On Wednesday, I hiked the trail up to Kaaterskill Falls in New York with my sister. The falls themselves were lovely, with a torrent of water flowing down over and under the large icicles hanging from the ledges. You can see a photo of the falls here and the snow-covered trail below. I kept an eye and ear out for birds, but I did not detect very many. However, I did hear my first Common Raven and Pileated Woodpecker in New York state at a nearby location, so I now need only one more species to reach 200 in the state.

It was easier to see the many small insects flying around. I saw at least one genuine fly, but most of the ones I saw up close were stoneflies. This individual is a Small Winter Stonefly, a member of the family Capniidae. I am not able to narrow the identification beyond that.

These stoneflies were a welcome sight. First, I have not had many insects to photograph since last fall, and I have been eager to see them again on a regular basis. Second, stoneflies are often used as an indicator species for water quality. Stoneflies are very sensitive to pollution because their nymphs need high levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. Since pollutants and runoff reduce dissolved oxygen, the presence of stoneflies is a sign of clean water.