A couple of weeks ago, I journeyed out to Oak Hammock Marsh to learn and experience all things dragonflies and damselflies at the Dragonfly Festival. This annual event features a variety of fun things to do for all ages (especially for kids) including a bunch of outdoor adventures in the marsh. Unfortunately, this particular day was weathering an extreme rainstorm, so all outside activities were cancelled, which was a bit of a bummer since I was hoping to swoop up a bunch of bugs in the marsh. The dragonfly safari sounded intriguing and I was keen to go on a “wader walk” to catch dragonfly nymphs.

Dragonfly fact! Did you know dragonflies spend most of their lives underwater as a nymph? Sometimes up to two, three or four years before they emerge. They then only live for a month or so after that.

Fortunately the volunteers and staff at the marsh took all that excess rain water, tossed it in a jug with a few lemons and made some sweet, sweet lemonade out of a stormy day. Even a short power outage couldn’t get them (or us) down — back-up generators for the win! A bit of rain is no match to their friendliness and passion for this festival.

I spy with my little eye

It’s always a pleasure driving out to the marsh as it’s smack-dab in the middle of the prettiest farm fields. I had to stop on the road at one point to take a photo of some ridiculously good-looking cows. I can’t resist those bovine beauties, especially when they’re lounging under a “statement” tree.

Dragonfly fact! How do you tell the difference between dragonflies and damselflies? The damselfly is generally smaller and they hold their wings pressed together at rest, whereas the dragonfly holds their wings straight out.

I like bugs

This festival is perfectly made for kids. Even though there was no way they could get good and dirty catching bugs in the marsh, there were plenty of interactive activities inside the centre. The most popular being constructing a dragonfly out of food. I didn’t get a chance to make my own foodie bug, but I did sit down for a 20 minute colouring session with a cute group of future artists.

Dragonfly fact! Dragonflies have the best vision in the insect world. And they can see in every direction, except right behind them.

I just…ate a bug!

These are a few of the creatively colourful (and tasty) dragonflies made by the kids. Katelynn (10) went all candy and marshmallows, while Beatrix (3) mixed it up with some Cheetos and marigolds. Lilah (5) thought snacks on the left and greens on the right was the right choice, while Besufikad (5) went full-on vegetarian (with a gummi snake thrown in because, you know, kids).

Dragonfly fact! Dragonflies were some of the first winged insects to evolve, some 300 million years ago. And they were HUGE! Fossils have been found with wingspans of up to two feet! (That’s a lot of licorice.)

You can call him Al

The kind and talented Al Simmons showed up buzzing with excitement with his big bag of tricks in tow. He threw around a few rubber fish and regaled us with a plethora of groan-inducing puns. (The dad jokes are strong with this one.) Al then brought out his banjo and got the whole audience singing and laughing along to one of the most entertaining eye-chart songs you will ever hear.

Dragonfly fact! That buzzing you hear is the sound from their rapidly beating wings. Dragonflies move about 100 body lengths per second, which is equivalent to about 30 to 35 mph!

A bug’s eye view

The best part of the day was getting up close to the true star of the show: dragonflies! Barry Konzelman shared with us all the facts (and a few myths) about these intricate little powerhouses. You know you’re in good hands when your dragonfly master wears a shirt that displays a photo of himself at one with the dragonfly.

Dragonfly fact! Dragonflies may be the best fliers on Earth. They can fly backwards, change direction in mid-air and hover for up to a minute.

Fly away home

The natural beauty of Oak Hammock Marsh
On my way back to the city, I saw a group of pelicans chillin’ in the marsh. This place is like a Thermëa for birds and bugs! I pulled over and grabbed my camera to get a couple of quick shots. As I moved closer to the pelicans, I also spied Canada Geese, ducks and cormorants (I think that’s what the black ones were?). That’s quite a variety to catch sight of from a distance in less than two minutes!

I left Oak Hammock Marsh happy. I was able to catch some quiet glimpses of this natural oasis, participate in some fun activities and, most importantly, gain a new-found respect for one of our smallest, yet strongest, creatures. Haha, rain, you lose!

Tell us, what’s your favourite thing to do or see at Oak Hammock Marsh?