18 June 2007

We score!

In our long quest to voucher Anax longipes for Wayne County, we ended up the 2006 field season with a score of Comet Darner 4, Urban Dragon Hunters 0. Let's recap:
I was just awarded a grant to do baseline standardized odonata surveys at the DRIWR, as they will be restoring a large brownfield along the Detroit River shoreline, including opening up a creek that is currently underground, and constructing a pond. We did our first survey yesterday. About halfway through our sweaty second transect, a very large darner landed along the treeline. Both Stylurus and I were able to locate the perched insect: a big Anax, which looked like a female Common Green Darner (A. junius). We're just as prone to wishful thinking as the next person, but from our looks, neither of us could see the bullseye pattern on the forehead which would verify junius (right). Before we could contemplate how to get at this darner, it flew again.

It's hard to describe the sort of low-key desperation one feels when you know you might have just seen a really great dragonfly, one that you have to catch either to confirm its identity or voucher for a location, only to see it fly away. It might perch again right in front of you, or it might take off and go far, far way. This one did a few lazy loops, and landed in a locust sapling about three feet high, within a few yards of us. We crept forward, watching it with binoculars and looking for the bullseye. What we saw was... nothing. No bullseye = Comet Darner.

Although I carry the shorter net with the narrower mouth, I was a bit closer, directly behind her, and tend to be a little more of a patient stalker than Stylurus. My net bag has already been sewn up a few times, so ripping it on the locust thorns was a risk I was willing to take. Stylurus was ready off to the right. I swung, and made a clean catch without even tearing the net.

Extracting it from the net, we found out that indeed, we'd finally bagged our county voucher. This was a different location at the DRIWR than I'd seen Comet Darners previously. I suspect they occur here because the river acts as a corridor; there are no appropriate fishless ponds (or any other surface water) for them to breed in. But this bodes well for when ponds are built on the Refuge.

From the photo above, it's hard to get any true perspective on size, and she sure looks like a green darner (although the big, long reddish legs don't seem right for junius). We decided to snag a green darner just for comparison:

Longipes is much heavier bodied and just looks like a junius on steriods.

We resumed our survey, in which we ended up with 25 species. Sedge Sprite (Nehalennia irene) was a new species for the Refuge, for a total of 33 species since I first began doing bird work there several years ago.

We'll be doing biweekly surveys for the rest of the summer. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Mark said...

The best part is... You caught it, and not that tall guy with the net.