27 July 2008

The Smallest Damselfly

On July 26, Nannothemis and I decided to check a couple locations of northwest Wayne County. There is rapid development in the area. Woodlots and wetlands are cleared, subdivisions are laid out, some houses are built then foreclosed upon. Or as it was in this location, office parks are defined, buildings are erected, then stand empty for years waiting for tenants. It's always depressing to check these areas, but we feel we have to make an effort to check them since some unique habitat was once present and may still be hanging on.

We visited a water retention basin in an office park that has held interesting dragonflies in recent years including Sedge Sprite (Nehalennia irene), Eastern Red Damselfly (Amphiagrion saucium), and Elfin Skimmer (Nannothemis bella). We've previously heard there is a small fen or bog nearby, but we've never been able to find it. One of the retention ponds holds water year-round since it is fed by a small trickle, but it has been filling in with vegetation over the years.

This weekend we were treated with a few Lyre-tipped Spreadwings (Lestes unguiculatus).

Here's the reason for its name:

A few Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita) were present including some females with blue markings:

However, the best find was the couple dozen Citrine Forktails (Ischnura hastata). This population has persisted for a few years.
Here are a couple photos showing the bi-colored stigma.

Unfortunately, this pond may fill in with vegetation during the coming years, such as the encroaching phragmites. We typically find this smallest US damselfly species in shallow water with short sedges or grass.

Later in the afternoon, we stopped by the only known location in Michigan (a retail/restaurant complex) for the largest US damselfly. However, we didn't find any Great Spreadwings (Archilestes grandis) since it's still a bit early in the season for them.

20 July 2008

Another county, More records

Nannothemis and I decided to head down to Monroe County on July 20th. We wanted to investigate some potential locations along the Raisin River near Monroe, Michigan for Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus).

Our initial stop was Waterloo Park, which is west of Monroe. This park has great access to the river but not quite the same structure for Stylurus as we've seen previously. However, we did find insect activity along the banks of the river.
I immediately snagged a Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps):

Updates to Monroe County's odonata list from this stop included...

- Stream Bluet (Enallagma exsulans) - previous record was from 1917
- Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) - 1st county record
- and this Eastern/Common Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) - only a previous sight record

Our next stop was at the Navarre-Anderson Trading Post which is the oldest surviving wooden structure in Michigan and is just upstream from Waterloo Park.
Dancers (Argia sp.) and Stream Bluets (Enallagma exsulans) were numerous.
The most significant sighting was a pair of Blue-ringed Dancers (Argia sedula). These hadn't been previously recorded for the county.

Our last stop of the day was Munson Park which is located next to Custer Airport. This park has a pond, playground equipment, and soccer fields at the front end of the property. However, at the north end of the park is a large woodlot, an overgrown ditch/creek, and adjacent fields with wildflowers. During visits in previous years, we've found both Macromia species, Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata), and a likely Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis). This visit also held surprises.

Immediately upon arriving at the overgrown ditch, I was greeted with several Common Whitetails (Libellula lydia) with a male Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) sitting amongst them. (New county record!)

Unfortunately the big male flew away and I quickly searched the ditch to find more individuals. There were at least 3 males and 5 females/young males along a 100m length.
After a few minutes, I was able to snag one of the males for the 1st county voucher and the 6th for the state.
It's always fun to have excitement immediately upon arrival at a location. We didn't even explore the more interesting habitat of the forest and the fields.

We'll have to make it to Monroe County again since we didn't find any Stylurus on this trip. ...There is so much to find and learn in these under censused counties.

19 July 2008

Big, Red Darners revisited

Stylurus here again....

After last week's observation of Comet Darners (Anax longipes) at Lower Huron Metropark, I decided to look for them again. Immediately upon arriving at the middle of the three ponds near the new water park on July 19th, I saw a male darner patrolling. Soon after this, a second male appeared.

Here's a view of the middle pond:

One or both of these individuals would patrol and leave the ponds regularly. They were absent most of the time. Finally, after an hour of watching and waiting, one of the males flew towards the upper pond. I was hoping to catch it as it returned to the middle pond, so I quickly followed.

Here's a view of the upper pond:

A few minutes later the darner flew near me while chasing a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).... and it was in the net. This is the second voucher for the county and the ninth adult for the state.

male Comet Darner (Anax longipes)

... and here's a shot of the top of the head (lacking the bullseye of the Common Green Darner - A. junius)

More adventures to come...

13 July 2008

A Pair of Saddlebags

Stylurus again.

Today I decided to check out three recently created ponds (2006 or 2007) at Lower Huron Metropark in Wayne County, Michigan to see if any mature meadowhawks (Sympetrum sp.) would be present.

Almost immediately I spotted a reddish-colored dragonfly over the largest of the ponds. I presumed it was a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), but I moved to one end of the pond to get a better view. While waiting, a large darner with a bright red abdomen appeared, Comet Darner (Anax longipes)!

The saddlebags decided to fly over my head, while I was calling Nannothemis on my cellphone with the news and with a one-handed swing, I nabbed the Carolina Saddlebags (T. carolina).
This male is one of several records for the county and one of only a couple dozen for the state.

Here's a male Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) for comparison.

After shooting these photos, I decided to look for the Comet Darner (A. longipes). Surprisingly, two or three individuals were present, but none of them accepted my offer for an in-the-hand photo. There are only a handful of records for this species in the state.

At one point, a darner flew by that may have had blue eyes. Could this have been a Spatterdock Darner (Rhionaeshna mutata)?

No meadowhawks today, but other excitement was substituted.
We'll see if we can make it back to this location in the next week or two.

04 July 2008

No cobras, but another surprise

Stylurus here again.

Last weekend's weather was unpredictable and hampered our attempts to look for Cobra Clubtails (Gomphus vastus) at Humbug Marsh. We did make it out on Sunday afternoon, even though it was spitting rain here and there. Another problem was high water on the Detroit River. Thus, we didn't have shoreline to search for clubtails.

Very few dragonflies were flying due to the breeze and light rain in the Chrysler property.

One male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) was found in the grass. I am accustomed to seeing these out over the water.

It was also nice to find a female Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa).

We decided to check another area of the refuge near some old growth Hickory-Oak forest which includes a few open areas bordered by dogwoods. Immediately upon entering one open area I had a large, lighter-colored dragonfly flitter a few feet and land. I quickly thought this was a female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) and called Nannothemis up to the location since she has the better camera for a photo. We saw one male at the refuge in 2007, but we were not able to obtain photograph of it.

We ended up capturing this skimmer and realized this was an immature male Great Blue Skimmer (L. vibrans).

Could this be evidence of L. vibrans overwintering in Michigan?