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Posts Tagged ‘Yellow-legged meadowhawk’

dragon1

White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)

I leave garden cleanup until the spring. All the dead seedheads and leaf litter provide cover and food for a host of bugs and birds over the winter. They also give the garden some visual interest over the stark months of cold. The unattractive dead scapes of dayliles might seem less useful, but they provide perfect perches for fall meadowhawks.

When I have been out working in the garden over the past few days, I’ve been treated to the company of a host of meadowhawks. The appearance of meadowhawks in the garden is another sign of summer coming to an end. These small, colourful odonates are late summer fliers and are often among the last species of dragonflies on the wing before winter arrives. Dragonflies lay their eggs in water and meadowhawks prefer habitat around wetlands and slow streams, but are often seen far from water, in meadows or backyards. Meadowhawks belong to the Skimmer family of dragonflies, Libellulidae, which includes 105 species in North America. Their habit of perching on the tips of stems makes them ideal photography subjects.

dragon2

Yellow-legged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)

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dragon2

Last Saturday was warm and sunny, a beautiful day. I noticed this wee dragonfly perched near our porch and caught this photo of him. It’s a Yellow-legged Meadowhawk (sympetrum vicinum), another member of the perching Skimmer family, Libellulidae. These little dragonflies are on the wing in late summer and autumn, and are typically the last species flying in northern regions. Indeed, the dragonfly seemed to be a harbinger of fall. While Saturday was summerlike, the following days have all been cool and cloudy and rainy.

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I haven’t walked down to the pond in a while, partly because it has been so hot that I couldn’t find the energy, and partly because the bugs have been so fierce this year, I was afraid I might be carried off by a giant mosquito. As it turned out, when I did take a stroll down there the other day, the mosquitos weren’t bad at all.

Perhaps the tree swallows can take credit for the bug control service. I was surprised to find that there were still nestlings in the boxes. Tree swallows usually just raise one brood a year. It’s possible that a first nest failed, or that the abundance of insects this year has resulted in the swallows raising a second brood. Either way, the parents were still busy collecting insects on the wing over the pond.

As I’ve got to know dragonflies better, one of the things I’ve found interesting is the way the dominant dragonfly species changes over the course of the summer. There are always dragonflies about, but not the same species. Right now, there are a lot of twelve-spotted skimmers (Libellula pulchella) patrolling the pond.

I like these dragonflies because they are large and conspicuous, and easy to identify, with their three black patches on their wings. They have chalky-white abdomens and yellowish side stripes on their thorax. Females are similar, but lack the white patches between the dark patches on their wings, and have a brown abdomen.

Another positive attribute is a penchant for perching, making them highly cooperative photography subjects. The twelve-spotted dragonflies weren’t the only skimmers to be found along the pond. The grasses at the margin of the water were host to many yellow-legged meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum).

They are somewhat smaller than their twelve-spotted cousins. The males are orange-red, but I saw mostly females, which sport a yellow abdomen and clear wings.

There was lots of other life. As I approached the pond, several turtles slipped into the water and disappeared. Certainly, I was not only the watcher but also the watched.

These ants were busy working industriously on a dogwood branch. I assume they were after aphids or some such, but couldn’t actually see what was attracting them.

Several White Admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) were flitting about.

It was hot in the sun, and I didn’t visit for long. I retreated to the shade of the house and left everyone to get on with their busy lives.

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Last Saturday was a pretty day, sunny and bright, and if not exactly warm, unusually mild for the end of November. We can’t expect too many more such days this year, and I decided to take the opportunity to go for a hike at Marble Rock, about an hour west of here, near Gananoque. My interest in this trail was piqued by descriptions that emphasize the scenic lookouts. The terrain is very different there than what is found throughout most of southern Ontario as it lies in the Frontenac Arch, an ancient granite ridge that links the Canadian Shield of northern Ontario with the Adirondack Mountains in the south.

I got a later-than-planned start on my hike as I ran some errands on the way out to the trailhead, arriving about mid-afternoon. Of course, a hike that promises lookouts is bound to involve climbing. The trail map at the entrance to the trail warns that the hike is moderate to challenging with rocky slopes and steep hills. The trail follows two loops. As I was starting out rather late in the day, I just planned on doing the south loop.

The deciduous trees have lost their leaves, but the ground cover showed that the forest was dominated by oak trees, with beech trees and a few maples mixed in. Shagbark hickory trees could be spotted by their rough, flaky bark, while a smattering of white birch trees were also conspicuous among the evergreens.

The trail begins climbing right from the parking lot. Soon you are walking through large boulders and moss-covered rock walls. There is no green quite like the vivid emerald of moss, highlighted by the afternoon sun. Especially at this time of year, when much of the forest is drably-coloured, the moss stands out.

Lichens also were well-represented on rock surfaces.

Although the woods were quiet, there was evidence of bird life. Nests were visible amongst the bare branches, and here and there, trees displayed signs of woodpecker work.

The first promised lookout was quickly reached. The view looks southwest.

The trail continues north along a ridge until you can look north over a large pond and wetland.

Then, it’s downhill, to the water’s edge.

The trail follows the eastern edge of the pond, scrambling over the rocky shore, and re-enters the woods.

As I trampled through the leaves, a few insects flew up, including a very late dragonfly, who settled on a rock.

It’s a male meadowhawk, likely a Yellow-legged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), often the last species on the wing in cool northern climates.

Then it’s back to climbing, up through the forest to the next ridge. Along the way, little heaps of acorn shells mark where a forest dweller has enjoyed a nutty meal.

The second ridge runs east and west and offers a view over a second wetland.

Gradually, the hike leads down to the edge of this wetland, a large, expanse of cattails and brush and grasses, with a branching stream of water flowing through it.

Three trees set out in the open area contain the nests of a heron colony. Perhaps because there are only a few large trees, each one supports multiple nests, a sort of heron apartment complex. At this point, the trail begins its long curve west and then south, the halfway point of the hike. To be continued…

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