As a kid, I grew up reading about fantastic animals, creatures that were more incredible than anything my imagination could assemble: bats with leaf-like noses, hoatzins, axolotls, elephants, platypus, dinosaurs and countless arthropods and sea dwellers. As I grew up, I had the oportunity to learn more about these and other creatures, and in some cases, meet them up close.
While studying Zoology in college, I started a “bucket list”: animals, places or events I had to see (and photograph, if possible) before I turned 30. In the past decade, I’ve crossed many off my list: I went to Angel Falls, fed an elephant, held a male Long-Tailed Sylph (Aglaiocercus kingi) and saw a tail-less whip scorpion in its natural habitat, among others.
During a field trip last weekend I saw one of the creatures I had longed to see for almost a decade: a scorpionfly. Yes, for many entomologists this isn’t a big deal, but they’re not that common down here. I was alone at the light trap at the time, since the two other researchers were ornithologists and had fallen asleep by 9:30 pm. I was doing a routine check when I looked down and there it was, stumbling on the floor; at first I thought it was a big crane fly, but when I looked closer I saw two pairs of wings and a face akin to the Egyptian god Set, and I knew that I was finally able to strike it off my list. It was a hangingfly (family Bittacidae) rather than a true scorpionfly (family Panorpidae), but still a fantastic find for me.
One of the worst things about finding it, though, was the inability to share my excitement with anyone; my friends at the station were asleep, no internet service and my friends back home would replace every song on my computer with the sound of a thousand vuvuzelas if I sent them an SMS at 2:30 am. I had to wait to return to civilization to share my excitement with fellow arthropod enthusiasts, since the ornithologists just said it resembled a mosquito on steroids.
Managing to finally strike that off my list has made me review it. Here are a few of the items:
– See a monarch butterfly migration completely covering a tree
– Swim with great whites (no playing heroes here, I’m perfectly happy to see them from inside a cage)
– Visit and photograph every one of my country’s national parks
– See a salamander
– Photograph a tiger beetle
Some are easier than others, but I hope to be able to cross them all off in the next couple of years.
Which items are on your list, and which have you managed to see/do?