Spring Triggers

A Day in the Life at Chicopee Lake

Editor’s Note: Don Lane, Elachee Teaching Naturalist and retired environmental scientist will provide insight, each month throughout 2022, about different environs and species in, and around Chicopee Lake, located in Georgia’s Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, in south Hall County.

Don Lane’s Journal Entry: March 2022
Spring Triggers Renewed Activity in Chicopee Lake

March 20 marks the first day of spring. Springtime weather in north Georgia is, to say the least, unpredictable. One day is bright, sunny and warm, the next is gray, cold and blustery.  As winter’s grip fades and the sun climbs higher in the northern hemisphere sky, life in Chicopee Lake begins to stir.

The longer period of daylight that begins with the coming of spring triggers a renewed activity among the organisms that call the lake home.  Although the water temperature is still quite cold, the chilly water makes for an abundance of dissolved oxygen. It is dissolved oxygen that fuels the awakening of life in the lake. 

Watching Spring Renewal

Along the lake banks where the soil is saturated with water, those plants that thrive in this type of environment begin to emerge. Buds on many emergent plants open to reveal green shoots that lengthen with every passing day. Where the water is quiet, masses of green algae rise to the surface buoyed by oxygen bubbles given off as byproducts of photosynthesis.   

During the first weeks of spring, a great plankton bloom will begin. Phytoplankton, commonly called plant plankton, begin to increase due to the extended periods of sunlight. In the shallow water near shore, the eggs of some zooplankton, commonly called animal plankton, which were laid in the fall begin to hatch. Among the first zooplankton to hatch out are daphnia also known as water fleas and copepods. Both are crustaceans and are related to lobsters and crabs.

Many insect larvae that survived the winter in a dormant state now become hungry and active.  Like the alien in the popular “Alien” movie franchise, dragonfly and damselfly nymphs prowl the bottom of the lake seeking prey using their hinged, expandable jaws which shoot out and subdue their victim.   

Look carefully among the dead and dried stalks of old emergent plants and you may see water strides scurrying about. Some water beetles may also be present but will not be in abundance until later in the spring. 

As the sun begins to warm the lake water certain tiny flies known as midges emerge from their pupal stage and become adults.  Taking wing, these adult midges hover over the pond looking for a mate. Midges are among the first insects to emerge that live their juvenile stage in Chicopee Lake. But their life is a short one, often not surviving a cold night. If you are lucky enough to visit Chicopee Lake during early spring to witness wildflowers, migrating birds and other springtime events, be watchful. Keep in mind that there is more going on than meets the eye.