01 October 2010

First state record: Striped Saddlebags

Striped Saddlebags (Tramea calverti) is a mostly tropical species that is typically resident only in the deep south, primarily Texas. They are prone to vagrancy, and Nick Donnelly's dot-map project shows a smattering of records from northern states:

Occasionally, Striped Saddlebags make a major movement; for instance, there were numerous records in New York and New Jersey in the late summer of 1992. In 2007, there were some northern records, including in Ohio. We made a purposeful effort to look for it, along with Band-winged Dragonlet, that year. We were successful in finding the dragonlet for Michigan's first state record at the Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge Humbug Marsh Unit.

Striped Saddlebags has remained in the back of our minds ever since. In the last month, reports of this species have popped up all over: in Chicago at Montrose; Two Harbors, MN; a boatload at Cape May, NJ; Delaware, New Hampshire, and at least six on 24 September at Metzger Marsh in Ohio.

At the Humbug Marsh Unit, adjacent to the Detroit River, is a large open area with many scattered dogwood shrubs. Trameas, Common Green Darners, and Pantalas love perching and gathering in this area in autumn, making it an ideal location to look for Striped Saddlebags. If they had flown into Michigan on the strong south winds we had in late September, this would be the place to look.

Sure enough, on the warm sunny afternoon of 29 September, at least three or four Striped Saddlebags were present.

Darrin did all the heavy lifting, taking the afternoon off work to search, determined to find this species. My two hours joining him largely represented the dry spell for sightings for the afternoon. In fact, we were giving up and heading back to the car, discussing a return strategy for the next day, when one flew right in front of him, allowing him to snag it for the state voucher.

We also found several other red-colored Trameas, and were able to voucher both Carolina Saddlebags (T. carolina) and Red Saddlebags (T. onusta) which is quite rare in Michigan.

This is state record number 6 for the Urban Dragon Hunters. In 2007, we took a photo of a Band-winged Dragonlet -- not only a first state record, but the northernmost record for North America -- with the stacks of the power plant adjacent to Humbug in the background:

Thus, we thought it was fitting to do the same with the Striped Saddlebags:

We think it really represents the highly urban nature of our dragon hunting. There are nearly 100 species of dragonflies and damselflies now recorded for Wayne County, MI. We've seen all but about five of them in the last 10 years -- and were the first to verify over half. This shows what you can find in your own backyard, even if it is in the big city.

Donnelly, T.W. 2004. Distribution of North American Odonata. Part II: Macromiidae, Corduliidae and Libellulidae. Bulletin of American Odonatology 8(1):1-32.

Soltesz, K. 1992. An invasion of Tramea calverti on the Northeast coast. Argia 4(3):9-10.


John B. said...

Congratulations on the state record! I wish I'd known about the Striped Saddlebags invasion when I was in Cape May last week. I didn't read about it until a few days after I got back.

Cathy Carroll said...

Nice to read this. I learn something new everytime. Good photos, too.