16 June 2007

Long time, no see

I realize this is a crappy photo, but it was beyond the range of the macro lens I had on my camera at the time. It's a Four-spotted Skimmer (or chaser, as you folks across the pond say), Libellula quadrimaculata. There are only three specimens from the county, all before 1917. Now there are four.

We found it, and one or more conspecifics, in a retention pond behind a Wal-Mart in Canton, a place we'd not been before. It was nearly entirely grown in with cattails, and mostly full of Twelve-spotted Skimmers (L. pulchella), along with a few pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) and dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) and lots of teneral Sympetrum. This was actually a birding stop for us, so I was without my net. When I saw this dull, hairy ode amongst the twelve-spots, I called for Stylurus to come around my side of the pond. By that time, the four-spot was landing repeatedly on this dead stalk. I wasn't expecting much new, nor did I realize four-spots were so furry and dull. It was a really nice unexpected surprise!

There was a little two-track heading back to the small woodlot near the pond. Since we were doing breeding bird atlas work, we thought we'd poke around. Not a hundred yards in, we found a small wooded wetland, easy to get to and quite open compared to similar ones we've found in the county. Even though it's been dry, there was plenty of water, and although our feet got wet, we didn't sink into deep stinking muck to get to the water's edge.

Stylurus immediately had a female Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) ovipositing on a rotten log. I won't even display the horrible shots I got of that. My next thought was that the site looked like a great place for Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), very similar to the site where we vouchered the first state record two years ago. I hadn't had time to voice that thought when I got a call on the radio from Stylurus, who'd wandered ahead and found a male GBS. I'll also pass on the crappy photos I took of that one, sitting over the water on a twig. This is our third location for the species in the county. Stylurus also thought he may have seen a female -- so far, we've only seen males.

It's always fun to find a new spot, although predictably this property was for sale. But it had no trails through the open understory, not many invasive plant species (and lots of less-common species for here, such as sassafras and tuliptree), and only minimal dumping or teenage presence. And to find a new species for us for the county, plus two other "good" odes made it a satisfying day.

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