Studying aquatic macroinvertebrates to learn about Hurricane Creek’s health.

Yesterday’s annual Hurricane Creek clean-up featured a wonderful learning opportunity for creekophiles young and old. Thanks to the University of Alabama Natural History Museum, the girls and I were able to learn how to determine stream health by surveying aquatic macroinvertebrates.

Our benthic “macro” friends.

Gnome expresses her opinions about how macros might taste.

Recent rains left the water unusally high- where the creek normally displayed riffles, we discovered mostly roars. Amanda showed us how to collect the water from the stream and use the macro key to identify the critters.

Peering through the portable microscope to view identify local macro life is like opening your eyes to a whole new world. I was so enchanted by what I saw that I couldn’t resist running back up the hill to share it with older and wiser members of our group.

Can you see the friend we spotted in the lower right hand quadrant of the view? Identification is half the fun- everyone has their own opinions and underlying reasons. Amanda thought the macro friend resembled a type of beetle larvae. Jim erred on the side of the fly fisherman’s ideal- “I think it looks like a caddisfly larvae,” he said.

My heart skipped a beat.

Stanley Park, Jr. surveys the macro scene.

Sharing the snapshot of stream life with Stanley Park Jr., the son of the late Stanley Park who left this land with the Trust for Public Land for the purpose of a public nature reserve, was more wonderful than I can verbalize. Something timeless permeated the scene.

The late Stanley Park, Sr., in a photo shared by his daughter, Mary Angelynn Fisher.

I imagined his father’s spirit watching the microscope move from the hands of tiny children to the aging hands of his son on the banks of the beloved creek.

Fred Fisher, son-in-law of Stanley Senior, tries to determine which macro we might be seeing.

Standing there together, surrounded by the blooms of native azaleas, the voice of the Hurricane Creekkeeper mingling the play sounds of the kids, softened by the rushing of the water over the rocks, only a run-on sentence can convey the way in which our actions and awe felt like a tribute to the late Stanley Park, Sr.

I am so grateful to have met Fred, Maryangelynn, and Stanley Junior (not to mention all the other friends of Hurricane Creek who teach me so much about our local treasure)- so honored to hear these stories along the banks of a southern stream, stories which deserve to be told and retold as the future of highways and pavement strangles the delightful whispers of our natural world.

To learn more about the local history of Hurricane Creek, visit the Friends of Hurricane Creek’s website and take some time to explore the memories.

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