Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Dragonflies in Virginia

Watching and identifying dragonflies seems to be gaining adherents. Howard County, Maryland, has its own dragonfly count. There are even blogs devoted to it. As I have written on this blog before, I started paying attention to dragonflies as an antidote to the late summer birding doldrums.

An article in today's Washington Post describes a dragonfly count in Reston, Virginia, and some of the people who participate.

Hold them up in the light, and they'll come around. The people at Butler Pond know this already about dragonflies, about the way the sun revives them from the stunned dismay of captivity, but Kevin Munroe repeats the lesson anyway before letting go of the blue dasher feigning death between his gentle fingers. The insect darts away and the dozen intrepid hunters, long-poled nets in hand, well-worn field guides in cargo pockets, search the Reston wetlands for more.


Revered by some cultures, feared by others, dragonflies have never failed to capture human imagination. They can fly backward, do cartwheels across the sky, and mate midair, for starters. "They're amazing creatures," says Munroe, a 37-year-old naturalist who has been leading this expedition each July for more than a decade. Counting the dragonflies, determining whether species have abandoned polluted habitats, is a way to monitor the health of the streams and ponds and lakes where they live, he explains.
An interesting note from the article is that one of the dragonfly count organizers is working on a guide to northern Virginia's dragonflies. This would be a welcome addition since resources for dragonfly identification are relatively rare compared to those for birds (and even butterflies).