Posts Tagged 'Odonata'

Weekend Update

It’s been absurdly warm. Lots of trees are nowhere ready to shake off their leaves. Bumblebees, which can take 60 degree temperatures, you might expect to still be around, but some of the smaller bees were out and about, too. This metallic green bee of the Agapostemon genus, for instance. But it’s late October: there isn’t much still blooming, still providing nectar and pollen.There were still Monarch’s moving this weekend. We noticed 15 in a small transverse of Brooklyn on Saturday, 35 on Sunday. More than a dozen each day were feeding at the inexhaustible Buddleja by Green-Wood’s Valley Water. Watching two Cooper’s Hawks soaring around each other, two more Monarchs kited into the binocular view. Monarchs float or sail quite a bit, coasting with the wind or tacking against it. They have been reported flying at 11,000 feet.

In addition to the Monarchs, this patch had some Painted Beauties, a high count of five Common Buckeyes (a record!), some Sulphur, Cabbage Whites, and several skippers, along with European Hornets on the hunt.A few Autumn Meadowhawks, including in tandem mating flight, Common Green Darners, and Familiar Bluets were also spotted.And a moth in the grass.

Familiar Bluet

Enallagma civile, the last damselfly of the year? This picture was taken on 9/24.This one on 10/6: tandem flight and egg-laying in Green-Wood’s Sylvan Water. I assume the larvae will overwinter.

Scandonata

So they have the same meadow hawk problem over there. These Sympetrum dragonflies are hard to ID in camera. Looks like S. vulgatum or S. striolatum are the options. Found around the moat of the Kastellet in Copenhagen, where the word for them is Hedelibel, or darter. The following mating damselflies were spotted in the same placid waters:Looks like the Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma viridulum). Lille Rødøjet Vandnymfe in Danish.

In Sweden, we didn’t have great dragonfly weather, but a big blue mosaic darner of the Aneshna genus, one of the Mosaiksländor in Swedish, was present on the sunny days. We were told that a week before many thousands had moved through, with lots of perching in the evening, but damned if I could get one of these to stop flying for a second for a photograph. With the Hobbies slicing and dicing the airspace overhead, they might have been wiser to take breathers on a perch under something occasionally. Really quite remarkable to watch the falcons zipping low over the golf courses and dunes to snag dragons, which they then eviscerated and gobbled up in the air. Not a lot of meat even on a big darner, so the Hobbies did it again and again.

Darners

The mosaic darners of the genus Aeshna are some of our largest dragonflies. There are 20 similar looking species in North America, so they can be a bear to identify. This looks like a Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa), photographed recently in Westchester Co. They run about 2.9″ long.

Shadow Darners can be seen well into the fall. They are one of the last Odonata flying around here. The only other time I’ve seen one was in late October.

Our usual darner is the 3″-long Common Green Darner. Migratory, they can sometimes be seen in good numbers over meadows this time of year.

But our biggest darner is the 3.4″ Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros). That link is to the time I watched one lay her eggs in rotting wood in Prospect Park.I don’t run into Swamp Darners often. Recently, though, we found this dead one in the NYBG on the bridge over the Bronx River. Talk about ol’ blue eyes.

Spreadwings

I have not come across any of the spreadwing damselflies in Brooklyn. These Lestidae family insects are the exception to the rule that damselflies rest with their wings folded back above their abdomen, in contrast to the dragonflies who don’t fold their wings at all.

This year I caught a glimpse of a spreadwing — their shape is unmistakable — through a thicket on Staten Island but couldn’t get my camera on it. A couple of weeks ago I finally captured one digitally north of the city. This is a male Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis). According to my go-to damselfly bible, Ed Lam’s Damselflies of the Northeast, the Slender is perhaps the most common in the region. It is also unique among the male spreadwings in not having a white tipped abdomen. The males, who run longer than the females, can be up to 2.5 inches long.Coincidently, we found this on the dashboard driving back from Virginia recently. It was quite dead.An immature male Slender, I believe. The only reason I miss being on Facebook is that I can’t submit pics to the Odonata wizards there, including Lam (who is working on a much anticipated guide to the dragonflies).

Wing Bands

The Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) is a dragonfly rarely seen perched. But sometimes you get lucky.The “saddlebags” = the dark coloration of the hind wings. This could be an immature male or a female. The yellow spots on the abdomen are the ambiguous tell: a mature male won’t have these.A closer look to examine the venation. There’s also a Carolina Saddlebags (T. carolina) in our parts, but it is seen with less frequency. On the Carolina, the saddlebags are red. The Black Saddlebags is one of the migratory species being tracked by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. This is a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) male. I just saw my first this summer in Westchester Co., but could not get a photo of the very busy fliers then. A few days later, in Virginia, I was able to photograph a couple.The clear/white/brown (it looks black in flight) patterning makes this one of the most distinctive of all our dragonflies. Even without a getting picture, or even a long view, I could take a mental description to the references and add it to my list (as I did recently with a pair of Halloween Pennants flying in tandem). The females lack the white bands, so she could potentially be confused with the Saddlebags even though she has the bases of all four of her wings stained brown.

Dragons/Damsels

Remember the Sympetrums? Devilishly confusing meadowhawks. This a female; possibly a Ruby or Cherry-faced.The Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) male is uniquely patterned with purple and blue. They are also called Violet Dancers.A male has a female in tandem flight position, either pre- or post-mating. This is another species I’m seeing for the first time this summer; spotted in Westchester Co.

A bonus in the archives: looking over some of my old posts, I realized I had never identified this specimen from Arizona:Mexican Amberwing (Perithemis intensa). Here’s our Eastern Amberwing (P. tenera) for comparison:Some differences: Eastern has smaller, redder pterostigma (the colored panes on the leading edges of the wings); Mexican lacks markings on top of abdomen. These are both males: Eastern’s graspers, at end of abdomen look much lighter.


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