Remembering Susie Schwoch
by Susie Bowman
This past summer, Felix Neck lost a very special friend and dedicated volunteer with the passing of Susie Schwoch.
Susie loved all animals and came by to Felix Neck many years ago offering to become a regular volunteer. In the last few years, she assisted Education Coordinator Josey Kirkland with monthly programs at Windemere Nursing Home where several of Susie’s beloved critters, including Wendy, her pot-bellied pig, were the stars. However, it was much earlier that Susie found a special “niche” as a citizen scientist working with me on the annual Odonate Surveys (dragonfly and damselfly).
Over the years, we became a solid team—Susie & Susie going out to survey Odonates, called odes for short. Susie was absolutely passionate about dragonflies and their daintier cousins, damselflies. Odonates are not easy to identify; they are small, fly quickly, and often perch in challenging places to observe. Together, we learned to identify different species, using binoculars, cameras, and, occasionally, nets. Susie was a gifted photographer and numerous times we made identifications by enlarging her photographs.
Together, each year, we conducted surveys on Felix Neck’s three fresh water ponds every 2-4 weeks from May into September. But this wasn’t enough for her! Susie lived nearby and would regularly check the ponds for ode-action, calling or texting me the latest sightings. It was during one of these forays that she photographed a new ode, what which was confirmed by Mass Audubon field scientists as a Leucorrhina intact, or “dot-tailed whiteface”a new species for Dukes County! Together, we added several more new species to the sanctuary odes list.
Special mention must be made of Susie’s “nymph” project, an undertaking that well represents her spirit and passion. One spring she said, “Wouldn’t it be cool to collect some ode nymphs and put them in a tank in the Discovery Room so the kids can see them turn into dragonflies?!?”
And cool it was. She scooped into the muddy bottom at the edge of the Field Pond—like first graders in the Islands’ schools do every fall—collected a few nymphs, put them in a small tank, and helped set up a multi-age interpretative display information. (Dragonflies go through partial metamorphosis with the nymph stage between egg and adults. The nymphs look like mucky “bugs”.)
A few weeks later, the first nymph crawled up on a stick and, to everyone’s delight, it cracked open, and an adult dragonfly, a Needham’s Skimmer, crawled out. Susie called me almost beside herself with excitement and wonder. We took the dragonfly over to the Field Pond and released it. Susie delighted in the smallest creatures, and this dragonfly brought her deep joy that helped fuel her energy despite her health challenges.
We deeply miss Susie popping in regularly with bubbling reports of her latest observations and eager to do another survey. I have lost an invaluable partner in the ongoing odes project and a caring friend.
Next time you see a dragonfly, think of Susie and be grateful.