28 June 2012

Bring on the Saddlebags

In the previous post, I noted a reddish-colored saddlebags (Tramea sp.).  In the next couple of days I saw an online posting about the large number of Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) in Minnesota, and then a report of Striped Saddlebags (T. calverti) also in Minnesota!

On 6/23, I headed to Pte. Mouillee SGA again in hopes of finding saddlebags.  (It would be good to find the second state record for T. calvertiIt was a windier day compared to my last trip to Pte. Moo in Monroe County.  The dragonflies were less abundant on the levees and they were likely in areas sheltered by the wind.  However, I was looking for saddlebags (Tramea sp.) which will still be found flying out in the open with a stiff breeze.  I had walked about half the distance of the previous visit and only saw a few large odes, but then a reddish saddlebags flew past and I followed it down another side levee. 

The good thing about a stiff breeze is that the odes will generally be slowed when flying against the wind, and that makes netting them much easier.  While watching the flight path of this individual, I was able to align myself near some vegetation and swing at an opportune time.  Having the dragonfly in hand made the identification much easier of this uncommon species for Michigan.  It was a male Red Saddlebags (T. onusta) and a new early record for the state:



Note the protruding hamules, black limited to dorsal side of S8 & S9, and reddish frons (forehead).   A Carolina Saddlebags (T. carolina) has reduced hamules, black down onto the sides of S8 & S9, and purplish frons.

This hike involved many fewer mayflies, but the deer flies were in much greater abundance and a greater annoyance since they bite. 

I continued down this levee in the Nelson Unit and found many (10+) saddlebags working the downwind side of the vegetation.  There were even two coupled pairs of T. onusta.

Once I reached a small patch of trees, the sheltered area was flush with Blue Dashers (P. longipennis), Common Green Darners (A. junius), Black Saddlebags (T. lacerata), and a couple Spot-winged Gliders (P. hymenaea). 

Here is a female Spot-winged Glider:

After leaving the Monroe County portion of the SGA, I went north to the Wayne County side with is also the headquarters.  While checking a couple of the open fields, I found another coupled pair of Red Saddlebags (T. onusta)!

Anyone along the Lake Erie area should be on the lookout for the reddish saddlebags this summer.  It's possible one could turn up these uncommon to rare species.

25 June 2012

Lord of the Mayflies

Mid-June seems to be a good time to look for Cobra Clubtail (Gomphus vastus) in Michigan.  I decided to check the Huron River mouth area at the edge of Lake Erie on June 17th.  A county park (Riverside) and state game area (Pte. Mouillee) are located at this boundary of Wayne and Monroe Counties.  There are plenty of perching areas for the clubtail, but I'm not sure if the habitat (water quality, flow, etc.) are appropriate.

Knowing my time was limited due to an approaching storm front, I quickly checked the Wayne County areas with no luck, and the winds picked up from the SE.  I then headed over to the Nelson Unit on the Monroe County side.  The levees provide decent areas that are sheltered from a southerly wind, and there is plenty of riprap and driftwood for dragonfly perches.  (Why didn't I take any photos of this?)

I picked along the downwind edge, but no luck finding any gomphids.  (I'll have check up the Detroit River in the future).  However, these areas at Pte. Moo were loaded with 1000s of Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) and 100s of Halloween Pennants (Celithemis eponina).  Here is a dorsal view of one male pennant:

I flushed one reddish-colored saddlebags (Tramea sp.), but couldn't get an ID.  There was also one male Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea).  My first for the year:

While wandering the levees, the mayflies (Order Ephemeroptera) kept landing on my arms and net.  I decided to take a non-flattering photo at the end of the hot, sweaty hike to show at least sixteen hitchhikers:

... and this was after I had picked many off my arms and chest.  There were more than a dozen on my pack too.

24 June 2012

Exuvia and Adult of a big darner

On May 26th, I was out looking for specimens for the stable isotope project in Wayne County.  Maybe I'd find some flying Common Green Darners (Anax junius) or new exuviae for this species.

Stopping at a favorite pond where I've found multiples of the species in past years, I found no adults and then spied an exuvia on a cattail.  With my net, I was able to coax it off the vegetation.  When in the hand it became apparent that this wasn't A. junius, but A. longipes.  A nice find for the day!

Three weeks later, on June 16th, I visited the same pond and found an adult Comet Darner (A. longipes) patrolling the edge.

Could this be an individual that emerged from the same pond?  I released it to make more darners for the future, but I kept the exuvia as evidence of successful breeding in Michigan.

17 June 2012

Blue Eyes are Flying

After completing my Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) route on June 9th, I decided to stop by Munson Park in Monroe, MI in hopes of finding an interesting dragonfly or two.  I was also wanting to collect a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) for the stable isotope project.

This park is unique in that it provides a small oasis in an area (and county) surrounded by highly manipulated land.  Through the years we've found a wide variety of fauna that can be difficult to observe, from birds such as Grasshopper and Henslow's Sparrows to many first county record dragonflies such as river cruisers (Macromia illinoiensis and taeniolata), Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros), Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), and Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata).  On one occasion, I also observed a female Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis). Water features (except some small ponds, agricultural ditches, and the River Raisin) supporting the diversity aren't fully evident, but there must be some variety of sufficient water quality nearby.

The day's westerly winds had increased by the time I arrived.  Thus, I wanted to check out the NE area of the park which would be sheltered by the woods and treelines.  Immediately I found darners and baskettails working the hedgerow.  One large baskettail had wing markings that were reduced.  Around here, Prince Baskettails (Epitheca princeps) typically have markings that make ID from a distance very easy.

A quick swing of the net produced this male:

Here is a photo showing the typical markings for E. princeps in SE MI:

Apparently, some populations further north will have little to no markings in the middle of the wings.

In the past, I've found the path between the prairie plantings and the woodlots to be quite productive.  The mowed area functions as a highway for the larger dragonflies such as this male Common Green Darner (Anax junius):

The width and length of the path makes it convenient to see individuals flying towards you or when flushed from perches in the trees or grass.  Within several meters a darner flew towards me at head height and I couldn't make out the species, but had assumed it to be another A. junius, until the blue eyes became apparent only a few feet away.  A lame swing over my shoulder missed this new county record. Knowing other people had observed multiple individuals in other locations of southeast Michigan this spring, I was hoping to have a chance at a second one.

Upon approaching the northern end of the path, I saw a darner rounding the corner and flying towards me at waist height.  I attempted to squat down to have a better view, and indeed, it was another Spatterdock Darner (Rhionaeschna mutata).  However, instead of flying past me, it flew towards me and jammed my possibilities to catch it in the net. (If only I had a shorter-handled net for that one!)

Eventually, a third individual was captured as it flew down the path at chest height.  Here is a male Spatterdock Darner (R. mutata) which is the first Monroe County record:

Later I was able to pose a second Spatterdock (R. mutata):

This species was quite a surprise.  As noted, I'm not sure of the location of the water feature for these to breed (fishless ponds with lilies), but there must be more species to find in and around this park... and we know there are Mocha Emeralds (S. linearis) still to be captured.

02 June 2012

Some color in Late May

After the last post, we were able to spend a good amount of time in the field over the Memorial Day weekend. 

On Saturday 5/26, after the rain storms, I checked out Lower Huron Metropark and found a few species for the first time this season.
- Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum) = dozens
- Orange Bluet (E. signatum) = 1 coupled pair
- Widow Skimmer (Libellua luctuosa) = ~dozen
- "reddish" Saddlebags (Tramea onusta or carolina) = 1

On Sunday 5/27, we checked out a few locations in Hines Park in the morning and were pleased to find a good population of Eastern Red Damselflies (Amphiagrion saucium).  This is only the second location where we've found them in Wayne County and this is definitely a breeding location. Here is a male:

During the afternoon, I checked a couple locations at Pte. Mouillee SGA in Monroe County and found a lot of color.
- Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) were out in the 1000s, such as this young male:

Then there were the damselflies...
- Variable Dancers (Argia fumipennis violacea) and Rainbow Bluets (Enallagma antennatum) by the dozens:

Later in the day, a Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) flew through our backyard in Dearborn.

On Monday 5/28, I checked out Maybury State Park and saw a single female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera).

The ode season is just beginning and it's been good so far this year.  Let's see what is turned up in June.