Posts Tagged ‘dragonfly’


Eastern Pondhawk female

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When out hiking last weekend, I collected photos of three dragonflies that we saw along the way, all close to water. All three are members of the Skimmer family, a colourful and diverse group of dragonflies comprising about 100 species. One of the very easiest to identify is the Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella). This male’s distinctive wing pattern makes the source of its name obvious. Each of the four wings have three dark patches at the base, midpoint and tip, with white patches in between. Females are similar but lack the white patches. These large dragonflies may be seen along shorelines, perched on vegetation or patrolling their territory over the water. You may also come upon Twelve-spotted dragonflies in upland fields and clearings.


The dragonfly above is a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina). Its brown and orange wings give this medium-sized odonate a butterfly-like appearance. Like other skimmers, it is a percher. That is, it tends to spend a lot of time perched, making brief flights before landing again, an attribute appreciated by photographers! Dragonflies in some other families, such as darners, are fliers, and spend most of their time on the wing.

The pretty dragonfly below is a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Blue Dashers may be found in a wide range of habitat, but are partial to well-vegetated ponds. What stunning eyes! Like the other two skimmers featured here, this small to medium-sized dragonfly is a summer flier.


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Yesterday, we had a lovely rainy day. The rain was much needed. While we have had occassional storms roll through, prescipitation has not been enough to offset the steamy hot days of July and the land is dry. Our little backyard stream, which gushes along like a raging river in spring, has been reduced to a series of puddles joined by a trickle of water. Today dawned bright with a scattering of clouds. After lunch, I took a stroll down to see how the river was doing. It was up significantly from its pre-rain level, though still low.


A big plastic box of newspapers had somehow made its way into the river. Hard to guess how it might have got there, here in the middle of an agricultural area. Everywhere people go, it seems, garbage follows.


I sat and watched the river flowing by. It was very quiet. As I approached, a Great Blue Heron retreated, but otherwise the only creature stirring was a single dragonfly. It obligingly landed near me, a Common Whitetail (Libellula subornata), a member of the skimmer family.


The temperature was quite pleasant, and the deerflies and mosquitoes weren’t pestering, so I carried on down to look at our pond. Along the way I passed a Barn Swallow family. This youngster, perched on the electric fence, is newly fledged. His parents took a dim view of me stopping to photograph their baby and made several close passes to discourage me. These youngsters are late, and I was glad to see them doing well, as the Barn Swallow population is in serious decline.


As I approached the pond, this pair of Painted Turtles, comfortably sunning themselves on a log, looked up suspiciously and soon decided to take their leave, slipping into the water and disappearing.


The low water level in the pond has revealed a number of burrows not usually visable. I’m not sure who lives here. A muskrat, maybe.


The mix of sun and cloud was perfect for creating beautiful reflections in the water.


It was pretty quiet down by the pond, too. Although there were a few dragonflies and frogs and waterstriders about, there was surprisingly little activity. I headed back toward the house, saying hello to Diva and Ivory on the way. They were too busy to visit.


As I walked through the garden, I noticed this garter snake keeping a close eye on me.


I admired today’s blooms as I walked back to the house. Here’s a closing photo from the garden, daylily ‘Asiatic Pheasant’.


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Last week, we had a few days when it was hot, hot, hot. So much so that the temperature set a record high for the area on one or two afternoons. While the heat made it hard to work outside in the garden, it was a boon to the odonates, the dragonflies and damselflies. They have become conspicuous, flying over the pond and long grass. The damselfly, above, joined me in the garden while I was doing some weeding near the house. I recognised her right away, because I had just read a post about River Jewelwings (Calopteryx aequabilis) over at The Marvelous in Nature. As there is a little stream running close by, we have appropriate habitat for this species. While Seabrooke has captured a male, this one can be identified as a female by the white stigma visible on the wing.

I had another close encounter with an odonate in the greenhouse barn. A dragonfly had become trapped inside and needed a hand getting back outside. I have a net handy for just such occasions and the dragonfly obligingly landed on the edge of net when I held it up near him. This gave me an opportunity to get a good look at him and take a couple of photographs. I concluded that he was a Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata), who would usually be found flying over water.

You can tell that it is a male by the arrangement of the abdominal appendages at the tip of the abdomen. The male has two superior outer structures and a single inferior appendage in the centre, which looks cone-like from above. I gave him a lift outside and he was last seen continuing on his way to the pond.

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We have had a lot of overcast, rainy days this spring, but Wednesday was a beautiful day. I took advantage of the sunny weather to visit the Upper Canada Migratory Bird Sanctuary, located east of Morrisburg along the St. Lawrence River. The Sanctuary was established in 1961, on 9,000 hectares acquired by the St. Lawrence Parks Commission following the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It features a mix of habitats including mature forest, successional woodlands, old fields and wetlands.


The Sanctuary offers outdoor education programs and includes a campground. The small interpretive centre has a store with a selection of guide books and giftware. It was quiet the day I was there, waiting, no doubt for the busier season to get underway once the kids are finished school in July.


There are four walking trails, with pamphlets available to help visitors enjoy a self-guided hike. I followed this well-groomed trail out through wetlands and open water to the former location of the Lost Village of Aultsville.


While walking in the park, I saw or heard a variety of birds, including a Baltimore Oriole, Wood Thrush, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and cormorants out by the river.


There were quite a few of these Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta) dragonflies along the walkway. They are members of the Skimmer family of dragonflies, which includes more than a hundred species in North America. They are often seen perched on floating vegetation. Females lay their eggs in flight by tapping the water surface with the tip of their abdomen.


Bluets are common damselflies. You can see the way these damselflies fold their wings over their back while perched, in contrast to the spread-winged posture of dragonflies. There are at least 35 species of bluets in North America, and telling species apart is challenging. This may be a Northern Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum), which are noted for their large blue eyespots.


There were a number of little blue butterflies flitting about. When they come to rest on a flower, they fold their wings over their back, thus concealing the silvery blue that makes them eye-catching in flight. This is a Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus). Their larval foodplants are lupines, vetches and other legumes.


Common Ringlets (Coenonympha tullia) were also flying along the trail. Ringlets are associated with grasses, which are their larval food. They are attracted to yellow flowers in the composite family, such as ox-eye daisies, for nectaring.


The Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) looks like a small Monarch butterfly. It can be readily differentiated by its smaller size and by the black line that runs across the bottom of the lower, or hind wing, lacking in the Monarch. The larvae of Monarchs feed mostly on milkweeds. Chemicals derived from the milkweed make Monarchs very distasteful to most predators. It was once believed that the Viceroy was a Monarch mimic so that it might take advantage of this predator protection scheme, but it is now thought the Viceroy is equally distasteful to predators. The larval food for the Viceroy is willow species.

Below is a view of the St. Lawrence from the trail.


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Lancet Clubtail

Blackflies weren’t the only insects to be seen in the mid-May woods. The warmer weather has stirred many species into activity, including a variety of spring-flying dragonflies. Incredibly agile, dragonflies are able to fly forward and backward, glide and hover. They catch their food on the wing, preying on mosquitoes, flies, midges, butterflies, moths, even other dragonflies. Along with damselflies, dragonflies are members of the ancient insect order Odonata, inhabitants of the planet for over 250 million years. In North America, there are about 435 species of dragonflies and damselflies, with dragonflies represented in 7 families. Dragonflies in northern regions generally survive just 2 to 4 weeks and various species are connected to specific flight seasons.

Pictured above and below are Lancet Clubtails (Gomphus exilis). Clubtails get their name from the flare of the segments at the end of the abdomen, which gives a clubbed appearance. The Lancet has narrow yellow “daggers” running down the top of the abdomen. The placement of the large, compound eyes of dragonflies can aid in identifying the species. Clubtails have separated eyes with a gap between them.


Lancet Clubtail

The small dragonfly pictured below is a Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta). The source of its name is self-evident. It belongs to the Skimmer family. Unlike the clubtail, its eyes meet broadly along a seam.

Dot-tailed Whiteface

Dot-tailed Whiteface

The Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), below, is a medium-sized member of the Emerald family. Like Skimmers, Emeralds have eyes that meet at a seam.

Common Baskettail

Common Baskettail

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