Two hundred and forty years ago today, the British and their Hessian swine-mercenaries walloped the still-loose conglomeration that was the Continental Army in Brooklyn. There’s a memorial in Prospect Park to the Maryland 400, troops who held the Old Stone House (the existing structure in J. J. Byrne Park is a recreation) down in the Gowanus while the rest of Washington’s soldiers made a pell-mell strategic retreat to Brooklyn Heights, and thence across the river. Geo. is supposed to have said “what brave fellows I must this day lose” about the sacrificial Marylanders.
Yet the British unaccountably did not press their advantage in Brooklyn. They occupied New York, but lost their opportunity of crushing the new American army right here. Big mistake. This, by the way, is also why we don’t have a national health system today.
Someone has laid a fresh wreath on the memorial in honor of the 400.
A pair of Blue Dasher dragonflies, concerned with their own history, were using the fence to tee up. This is the female.
You have to get pretty close to see the white face on one of NYC’s most common dragonflies, the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). This is a male; as he gets older, his blue abdomen will get more powdery or chalkier looking. Such pruinescence, as it’s called, is caused by wax exuded from the animals’ cuticle. It’s seen on (mostly) males of many species of odonates, including spectacularly the Common Whitetail:Plathemis lydia.
12-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) male.
Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) male.
Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) male.
What’s up with all the males? They’re patrolling territory, in this case the ponds of Green-Wood, while females generally only show up to these sites when they want to mate. Otherwise the females are over the fields and meadows, at the edge of the woods, “across the river and through the trees”….
This is a female Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice), spotted recently on Plumb Beach. This is the only American species of dragonfly that breeds in salt water, in this case probably the saltwater marsh tucked behind the beach. To be honest, I couldn’t see any of the handsome orange and black patterning on the abdomen and thorax in the bright sunlight. It was only after looking at the pictures later that I could identify this one.So this makes for 16 species of dragonflies I’ve identified within New York City. This has all been by eye (and lens-enchanced eye); hardcore odonate-philes will net specimens. (Would definitely get a few more if I snagged ’em of the air and examined closely, but I’m guessing that would not be a pleasant experience for them.) All of these have been in Brooklyn except the Unicorn Clubtail. I have not explored Staten Island, the ode mecca of the city, nearly enough.
Common Green Darner (Anax junius)
Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes) *Bronx
Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna héros)
Common/Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollis)
Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice)
Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata)
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans)
Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea)
Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis genera)
Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia)
Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)
Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)
Here are all my dragonfly posts.
And here are damselfly species I’ve IDed in NYC, a harder proposition since they’re generally so much smaller. (And when I say I’ve IDed them, that means I’ve often had help from the Northeast Odonata group on Facebook.)
Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis)
Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum)
Familiar Bluet (Enallagama civile)
Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum)
Citrine Forktail (Ishnura hastata)
Lilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti)
Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita)
Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis)
Check out this NYS odonate survey completed in 2010. 22 species of d & d were noted in Kings County (Brooklyn), an estimated 75% of what they thought there should be. The Seaside Dragonlet was NOT recorded on that survey, although it was in the historic records they consulted so they counted it.
You may wait a long time before one of these gliders comes to a stop. Both the Spot-winged (Pantala hymenaea) and Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) dragonflies seem to spend their whole working day in the air. These are the constantly moving yellow to golden dragonflies that are now being seen above our meadows and grassy swards. Their zig-zaggy dance is hypnotic.
I think we have more Spot-winged than Wandering, but I don’t net the critters out of the air, so I can’t say for sure. Whichever, Green-Wood has been a good place for them recently. A dozen or more at a time, clearly onto something edible which we can’t even see. And if you look in the distance and the light is right, there are even more. At eye-height or above, or lower. Moving, moving moving.
But perhaps if you’re doing something else, you’ll catch one taking a break. We were underneath a Persimmon tree. This Spot-winged slipped under the canopy to perch above us: it was taking shelter, out of sight of predators and… well, not this paparazzo.This is only the second time I’ve ever seen one of these perched. The spots (really more like fat commas) on the hind wings are close to the body and fairly subtle, almost impossible to see in the air. (Clicking on these images will open them to a larger version.)
Both of these Pantala species are migratory.
Our smallest dragonfly species, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). This is a male. A female was also seen dipping her abdomen down into a lens of water atop a waterlily leaf, depositing her eggs. Blue Dashers, Green Darners, and Black Saddlebags were also about, but we certainly haven’t yet hit peak dragonfly.