Archive for September 28th, 2009


Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies by Blair Nikula and Jackie Sones (with Donald and Lillian Stokes). Little, Brown and Company, 2002.

If you enjoy hiking, the first creatures you may want to learn about are likely to be birds and butterflies. Sooner or later, however, you start to notice other common fauna such as dragonflies and damselflies. In fact, the more you look, the more you will find that members of the order Odonata are common, widespread, and yes, very interesting! Whether you are hiking in woodlands, by wetlands or through meadows, you are likely to come across a few dragonflies or damselflies. The variety of species represented changes across the seasons from spring to fall.

For an investment of just $10 or so, this Beginner’s Guide offers a great introduction to Odonates. The opening pages provide a brief summary of their life cycle and behavior, and offer tips on identification. The helpful introduction is followed by “A Quick Guide to Families”, which aids the reader in grasping the most significant differences between dragonflies and damselflies and between 3 damselfly and 7 dragonfly families. This is of assistance in narrowing down the possibilities when attempting to identify an individual.

The identification pages feature about 100 of the most common and widespread of the approximately 435 species found in North America. Each page covering a different species features a good colour photograph and a description of the appearance of the species, its size, behavior, habitat and flight season. A small map gives an idea of the range of the species discussed. Once you have mastered the basics of Odonate identification, you might want to go on to a more detailed guide such as Sidney Dunkle’s Dragonflies Through Binoculars or a guide specific to your region.

At this time of year, Meadowhawks (genus Sympetrum) are common. The guide notes that:

The red meadowhawks of North America present an intractable field problem. Although some species are recognizable in the field, the identification of many, even in the hand, is difficult at best. The taxonomy of this complex is unclear, and the exact number of species uncertain.

White-faced, Cherry-faced and Autumn Meadowhawks are among the most common. While males are often reddish, females and immatures may be yellowish to bronze or olive-brown. Below are a set of photographs of Meadowhawks spotted here in the past week.






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