Saturday, August 18, 2012

Donaldson Dragonflies

Recently I started participating in the Dragonfly Pond Watch Project run by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. I hear about a lot of projects like this through insect bloggers; in this case I heard about it through the Xerces Society's newsletter. This particular project tracks the migratory movements of two very common dragonflies, the Common Green Darner (Anax junius) and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata). It involves periodically counting dragonflies at the same pond over the course of the fall migration period. This works well for me since an artificial pond is part of my normal walking route through my local patch, and I can just add 15 or 20 minutes to my normal route to count dragonflies there.

So far the results have not been auspicious. My first visit, on August 2, netted exactly one Black Saddlebags and no Common Green Darners. During my second visit to the pond yesterday, I saw neither of the target species during my count period. Most of the odonate activity around the pond consisted of Eastern Amberwings and Familiar Bluets, with an Eastern Forktail thrown in for good measure. One red dragonfly caught my eye, so I photographed it as best I could. After reviewing my dragonfly resources, I think this is a male Needham's Skimmer. The lack of black triangles along the sides of the abdomen rule out most meadowhawks. The closest species in appearance is the Golden-winged Skimmer, which is more uncommon in this state than Needham's Skimmer, especially on the coastal plain. Plus there are hints of a few other features characteristic of Needham's but not Golden-winged.

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I did not see either of my target species during the count. Of course, when I walked along the river to continue my route, what do I see on the other side of the field? Black Saddlebags. And not just one, but a half-dozen or more. In their company was a Common Green Darner. If I did my watch by the basketball courts instead of at the pond, I would be recording more sightings.