11 June 2005

An unexpected county record

A face only a mother could love. Cyrano Darner, Nasiaeschna pentacantha

Today Stylurus and I sort of planned to head back to Lenawee Co. because so many gomphids are needed. A walk in the shady River Raisin seemed like a good way to spend a super-hot day. But he first wanted to see the Dickcissels (Spiza americana) and Henslow's Sparrows (Ammodramus henslowii) that are on territory at one of Wayne County's large metroparks, Oakwoods. Since I had seen a large darner patrolling the Huron River here the day before, we decided to take a quick look for that, too. All I knew was that it was large, dark, and from the brief look I had of the thorax, green-striped. I assumed it must be a Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros), although the habitat wasn't quite right.

At the field where the birds were, dozens of odes, mostly Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) were patrolling the air. At the river, we soon found Unicorn Clubtails, and our big darner friend. Stylurus stood at the end of a short dock, and I stood near the shoreline. After about 10 minutes, he got his chance, swung, and bagged the darner. Redemption (for missing the state first record of Flag-tailed Spinyleg in 2003) was his! We looked at this thing, clearly not a Swamp Darner, and decided it must be a Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata), just out of basic ignorance and our limited choice of likely species.

Did we notice the huge schnoz on it? Of course! Did we know Cyrano Darner had this distinctive profile? Yes! Was this so unexpected that we dismissed this species out-of-hand while in-the-hand? Yes, also, at least initially. A quick look at the books confirmed it -- an unexpected county record, of which there are only six specimens in the Michigan Odonata Survey for the state.

Rainbow Bluet, Enallagma antennatum

We went to the nearby pond in the woods, home of the Pronghorn Clubtail described here. Indeed, there were males flying around, but also lots of damsels. This pond is one of the only places in the county, for some reason, that has Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis); the race here is now known as Violet Dancer (A. f. violacea). As well, there were several of one of my favorite Enallagmas, the Rainbow Bluet. Isn't he a beauty?

It was a fruitful day, cut short by a drenching thunderstorm. Not sure what tomorrow will bring...

Book meme on the entomology theme will be posted soon.

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