16 July 2014

Ophio Odyssey - day 1, stop 3

3rd stop = Deeper Flowing Water with Large Dragons

Erickson Boat Landing, DNR boat launch on the Paint River, upstream from Highway 141

MNFI found Ophiogomphus nymphs at the bridge of Hwy 141 (NW of Crystal Falls), but it was shaded in that area by the time I arrived on June 11, 2014.  I saw the sign to the boat launch upstream which was a few miles upstream and was pleased with the river access (46.14224, -88.40381).  

 The river was fairly wide (~80’) and ranged in depth from knee-deep to waist-deep with a moderate flow.

Dozens of teneral/young Swift River Cruisers (M. illinoiensis) with a couple of Prince Baskettails (E. princeps) were patrolling the river overhead.  

young adult female Swift River Cruiser (M. illinoiensis): 

 I have never seen so many Macromias flying in one place.  A couple of snaketails were observed, but too far away for a chance to ID.  At one point a female Twin-spotted Spiketail (Cordelegaster maculata) flew by and landed in a tree on the far bank.  
Upstream from the boat launch was a small woodland creek with a gravelly bottom and a few silty areas.  A couple of fast-flying dragonflies eluded me and remain a mystery.

In this location I also found some baskettails, including this male Spiny Baskettail (E. spinigera):

Only three exuviae were collected on the vegetation of the banks of the Paint River and the creek outlet.  These were the more common snaketails (O. rupinsulensis or carolus).

Unfortunately, this was the last stop with good weather.  The coming day called for rain, wind, and cooler temperatures.

12 July 2014

Ophio Odyssey - day 1, stop 2

Please note: Ophiogomphus howei is currently listed as threatened in Michigan, and collection of live specimens is prohbited without a state-issued endangered and threatened species permit (which we have).

2nd stop = Fast Water / Slippery Rocks

Paint River at Highway 69 in Crystal Falls

This area was one location that MNFI found O. howei and O. anomalus.

Initially, I stopped at the boat launch on the NW corner of the intersection on June 11, 2014.  Here the Paint River has a high flow rate with slippery rocks that are larger in size.  Walking here was a bit tricky at times. It had deeper silt along the shore upstream.  The pictures below are deceiving since the knee-deep water looks so calm.

I ended up walking to the bridge abutment in the middle and found a few exuviae, but I only saw a couple adults flying: Four-spotted Skimmer (L. quadrimculata) and Swift River Cruiser (M. illinoiensis). 

I could see a park on the east side of the river with a boardwalk, the Paint River Boardwalk which looked good for exuviae locations so I drove to that side.  

It was quite silty around the pilings of the boardwalk platforms, but I found several exuviae.  This also provided a good location for walking upstream in the river.  

 There were several adults flying including: Chalk-fronted Corporal (Ladonna julia), Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata), Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa), and, at one point, I think a Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus) flew in/by.  However, I saw no Ophiogomphus flying.

Here's the stripes of a male Chalk-fronted Corporal (L. julia): 

 ...and a male Stream Cruiser (D. transversa): 

Exuviae collected from under the boardwalk and pilings included one of my target species for the trip with two male Riffle Snaketail (O. anomalus), a couple clubtails (Gomphus sp.), several other snaketails (O. rupinsulensis or carolus), and 2 Stygian Shadowdragons (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis)!  

This is only the third county in Michigan to have the shadowdragons confirmed.  It's great to find some unexpected species.  Some day I'll have to try to find/"see" adult shadowdragons.

04 July 2014

Ophio Odyssey - day 1, stop 1

As noted in a previous post, I was searching for evidence of two rare snaketails (Ophiogomphus) in the western UP (upper peninsula) of Michigan.  Dave Cuthrell from MNFI gave me information of previous locations in and around Iron County of Pygmy Snaketail (O. howei) and Extra-striped Snaketail (O. anomalus).

1st stop = Brule River Bonanza
On Wednesday, 6/11/14, I took off from Houghton Lake in the rain, but that was OK since I had a 6-hour drive ahead of me to get to Iron County in the western UP.  The radar showed that I should be driving out of the rain during the morning so I had hoped for good weather at midday when I arrived.

Highway 2 was my route for most of the drive and is quite scenic along the north end of Lake Michigan.  I had no time to stop since the Ophiogomphus (ii) were waiting for me.  This highway dips down into Wisconsin before turning north back into Michigan.  In this area the Brule River is the border between the two states. This bridge crossing has a great pulloff and access to the water.
 The river here had a moderate flow and was generally knee-deep with a gravelly substrate, a few larger rocks under the bridge, and some silty areas near the bridge abutments or bends in the river.  There was also a small, cold stream entering on the downriver side of the bridge.  This stream was only an inch or two deep and about a foot wide.

Upon exiting my car, I was amazed at the swarm of baskettails (Epitheca sp.) over the road.  Quickly netting one confirmed a Beaverpond Baskettail (E. canis) and it appeared that most were this species with the distinctive cerci.

Knowing that my target species of Ophiogomphus would be difficult to find or catch over the river, I initially checked under the bridge for exuviae (or larval skins).  Jackpot!  I hadn’t studied the features or shapes of the intended species, so I collected all that I could find knowing I could potentially add a species to the county list or expand the known distribution of others.  I had a zip-lock bag that I clipped to my pack and filled it up with 30 exuviae.  As of today, I’ve made my attempt for species IDs of these exuviae and Ethan Bright has offered to examine the undetermined ones. (two dozen Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis or carolus ?,  one Ophiogomphus anomalus, Ophiogomphus sp.?, one Macromia illinoiensis,  and one Calopteryx aequabilis).  The Extra-striped Snaketail (O. anomalus) confirms a new location for the species!

Here's an example of an Ophiogomphus exuvia on the bridge:

It was a calm, sunny afternoon and there were many adults flying over the river including: 
River Jewelwing (Calopteryx aequabilis), 
American Rubyspot (Haeterina americana)
Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata), 
Swift River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis), 
Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus), 
Green-faced Clubtail (G. viridifrons), 
Beaverpond Baskettails (E. canis), 
Four-spotted Skimmers (Libellula quadrimaculata), 
Rusty Snaketail (O. rupinsulensis), 
and several Riffle Snaketails (O. carolus). 
Here's a male Riffle Snaketail:

Success with finding one of the two target species (O. anomalus), thanks to the larval skin left on the bridge or nearby vegetation.
Next stop: the Paint River

28 June 2014

Insect Week!

We'd be remiss not to post a link to five videos from last week featuring our BFF and ode inspiration, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology's insect collections manager Mark O'Brien. This page at the UMMZ has them all.

Here's the intro video:

14 June 2014

Snaketail fame at DSA

While I stay at home due to work obligations, my better half is attending the Dragonfly Society of the Americas annual meeting in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. He traveled from home to the meeting via the Upper Peninsula of Michigan so he could check on the status of two rare odes, Pygmy Snaketail (Ophiogomphus howei) and Extra-Striped Snaketail (O. anomalus). I am on the Michigan DNR's Insect Technical Committee reviewing threatened and endangered species and am writing up status reports for all the Odonata on the list. Darrin's surveys will be invaluable for creating recommendations on these species.

Upon arrival at the meeting, he gained well-deserved recognition for dragonhunting by snagging the first O. howei of the session, as well as St. Croix Snaketail (O. susbehcha). Our friend Bryan Pfeiffer is blogging the event and you can read about Darrin's accomplishments here. Bryan laments he has no photo of Darrin (except the tips of his thumbs) -- so let me provide one:

Darrin O'Brien, a.k.a. Stylurus, half of the Urban Dragon Hunters