Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dragonflies in Wendell ~ Sunday, June 22nd

WARNING:  If you are not into dragonflies, then you need to close this post right now.  As most of you know I've become somewhat obsessed with odonates this past year.  Remember in spring when I was whining while waiting for my first sighting?  Well, I may have hit my saturation point this past weekend (not really).  But of the 33 photos in this posting, 26 are of dragonflies and damselflies!

This past Sunday we decided to stay somewhat local.  We had traveled to the Berkshires on on Friday and done the southeast coast on Saturday, so we thought we would poke around in Wendell, MA which is just slightly northwest of Quabbin.  The area is loaded with marshes and swamps and we figured it would be good for dragonflies.  We also wanted to explore the Wendell State Forest and then end up at the Millers River in Erving to check on odes there.
On the way out we stopped at a great little marsh on Moosehorn Road right off of Rt. 202 in New Salem on the way to Wendell (next town to the west).  And even though it was just after 7 and a bit cool, we had our first dragonfly -- Frosted Whiteface.
We also had an unusual sighting of a moth sitting on a lilypad.  When we checked the ID in the new Peterson Field Guide to Moths, it turned out to be a Ploymorphic Pondweed Moth -- so maybe having it out in the marsh on a lilypad wasn't all that unusual after all.
 Further along Moosehorn and Jennison Roads in Wendell we checked out other marshes and beaver ponds.
Along the dirt road we started to see our first butterflies -- this Red-spotted Purple.
And we had this immature Swamp Spreadwing perched on a leaf overhanging the marsh.
This female Common Baskettail was also just hanging out....
 ...along with this teneral Slaty Skimmer.  I remember when the first tenerals started to appear in May.  I was so confused by the Four-spotted Skimmer and the Hudsonian Whitefaces I was seeing.  Now it's a bit later and those guys aren't as confusing, but the new odes emerge (like this Slaty Skimmer) give me a chance to learn who new families.  I feel like a perpetual student.
As we continued along Jennison Rd. making our way to the state forest, we stopped at a small cemetery (South Cemetery) which had yet another boggy marsh nearby.  Although I didn't get a photo we had a couple of Elfin Skimmers in the cemetery, along with this Eastern Pondhawk perched on a low gravestone.
Even though you can't see the face, this is a female Hudsonian Whiteface.  Even though I've seen close to 100 this spring, I still needed help in identifying her and I'm so grateful that I'm on the Facebook page of Northeast Odonata which I can just ask for help...and get it.  I do have to admit, though, that it was Mark who made the ID on this one.  He's actually gotten great at not only spotting the odes, but rather quickly getting them into the right family based on overall size, shape and proportions.
As I stepped closer to the little pond across the street from the cemetery, I had lots of Chalk-front Corporals landing on me.  This is my first Chalk-fronted selfie!
At the state forest we drove some of the major dirt roads and our attention re-focused on birds since it was a wonderful mixed deciduous and coniferous forest.  We had lots of Red-eyed Vireos, Ovenbirds and Scarlet Tanagers, along with the calling Eastern Wood Pewees.  Most of the birds were staying out of sight, but you could hear the Black-throated Blue Warblers everywhere since the place was loaded with Mountain Laurel.  At a small pond we stopped to check for dragonflies again, and we weren't disappointed.
We had several Aurora Damsels, including this mating pair.  Plus there were several other species of dragonflies buzzing around the pond.
At the exact same moment, both Mark and I saw a dragonfly hit the water and not fly back up.  We had a similar experience last summer at Otter River where we had to rescue a young ode by throwing enough branches into the water so that he could climb up and dry out.  This time the dragonfly was out further than any sticks we could find and certainly further than the net we sometimes use for catching odes.
Also it didn't seem like this little guy was moving very much, so we thought he might have passed.  Suddenly he started to move and we went into high gear with getting branches close to him without swamping him.  We weren't sure how much time we had before he would drown or a frog would get him.  He finally made it to a small log, and while he could hang on he couldn't quite pull himself.  I finally found a very long but skinny branch (about 10') and slowly tried to move the branch closer to shore.  I had to make sure that I moved slowly enough to keep him coming in, but not roll the log and swamp him.  Mark went and got the net out of the car, but as he got close to the shore he went down for what we thought was the last time.

I was crushed.  It wanted so much for it to have a happy ending.  We looked and looked, but couldn't refind him.  As we started to focus on the other dragonflies flying around, Mark spotted our little friend very close to shore and scooped him up in the net.  He looked totally drowned, but we decided to place him in a sunny spot and see what happened as he dried out.  I was able to get some terrific shots with my macro lens and feel pretty certain that this was a Twin-spotted Spiketail -- a new species for us.  While we thought he had passed at this point, about 10 minutes later when I went to check on him, he had crawled onto a log and was obviously still alive.  At this point I told Mark I wanted to leave before anything else happened and I could just tell myself he recovered and flew away!

So while that ended happily, unfortunately when I got home and downloaded the photos I inadvertently ERASED all the photos from my camera with the macro lens before downloading them.  This is the first time I have ever done that and didn't even realize it until yesterday morning when I was cropping photos and kept going " hey, where are the shots I took of the rescued ode?"....."where's the Fragile Forktail; I know I took a close-up"..."hey, where's the scenery show I took of the rock formation in Wendell SF" and so on and so on.  Lesson learned:  wait at least a day before erasing what's on the camera.
After the tension of that rescue, we moved down toward Wickett Pond and took a couple of paths near the pond.  It was great to be in an area with so few other people, and even though the pond was quite large we saw only a couple of kayakers and one couple with a toddler in a canoe.  And we only ran into two people on mountain bikes and one woman walking a dog.  At the pond we did have lots of dragonflies though. BTW, there was a really nice photo of Wickett Pond taken with the other camera, so you'll just have to imagine it for now!
We had a nice Wood Frog on the trail near the pond, and this White Corporal was a new species I photographed.  Even though they are quite common, I had never gotten a photo before.
At the pond itself we had Lilypad Clubtail.....
 ...and Unicorn Clubtail.  These two species actually look quite alike, although my photos don't show that, so I keep wondering if I've correctly identified these two species.
We also had a "life" beetle -- an Eyed Click Beetle, which is quite large.  Mark had it fly by and thought it was a hummingbird.  The adults feed on nectar and plant juice, so it landed on a Mountain Laurel bush and just started to suck on the stems.
We also had our first of the season Calico Pennants...although this guy looks like he's been through the ringer already when you look at his hind wing.  A bird must have caught him when he was a teneral and it just didn't develop.
After leaving the state forest we headed northwest along Farley Road to get to a bridge across the Millers River.  Along Farley Road though we came across a great marsh with an active Great Blue Heron rookery...and lots more odonates.
We also had this female and 7 young Wood Ducks heading for cover as we pulled off the road.
Damselfies were everywhere.  In fact this is where I got a great shot of mating Fragile Forktails with my macro lens.  Grrrr, another of the photos that never made it to my computer.   But I did get shots of Familiar Bluet.....
 ...and lots of Northern Bluets.  There were probably Boreal Bluets as well, but I'm still learning to ID most of the damselflies.
For me, one of the easiest dragonflies to learn was Twelve-spotted Skimmer.  At first I got confused with the female Common Whitetail, but there's no mistaking a male 12-spotted with the white in the wings.
And Spangled Skimmer is another one that's easy....thanks to the white marks on the wings, which is there is both males and females.
At the marsh we also had some darners flying around and spent when I say "flying around" I mean zipping by fast and never stopping....well almost never.  After about 15-20 minutes we spotted one put down on a small weed in the middle of the pond and I just started snapping photos.  When I got home and enlarged it, I found that I had captured a Spatterdock Darner laying eggs on the underside of a lilypad (which is what they do.)  This was really exciting for a couple of reasons.  First, this is the first Spatterdock we've ever seen, although we looked for them lots of places this spring.  Secondly, I love to capture a dragonfly displaying natural behavior in the wild rather than net them and takes shot in the hand.  I know that it's sometimes necessary to absolutely ID an ode, but there's something so satisfying when I can ID it without interfering with it.  And finally, we watched a bullfrog leap out of the water and try to catch the dragonfly as she finished laying eggs.  Luckily, she was too fast for him.
Our last stop of the day was a great stretch of the Millers River in Erving near the wildlife management area.  Last year we were excited to find a good number of Powered Dancers here, and we hoped to repeat the experience.  The first thing we noticed (and we saw this last year as well) was the amount of exuvia on the rocks in the river...both close to shore and farther out.  In the photo below you can see at least two different cast skins left behind as the dragonfly undergoes metamorphosis from a larva living and breathing underwater to an aerial-feeding insect.  This transformation is absolutely mind-blowing to me.  I would love to see a dragonfly emerging from the last larval stage and fly away....just haven't been lucky enough yet to see it.
And we did have lots of Powdered Dancers on both sides of the river.....
...including this immature....possibly a brown form female....well disguised on a tree stump.
Ebony Jewelwings were everywhere on the river.  I love how sometime the males look brilliant green and at other times a deep turquoise.  I have to admit though I was hoping for a River Jewelwing which is supposed to be common throughout interior MA.
We ended the day with my most exciting sighting of the season so far.  Mark spotted a dragonfly sitting on a rock and knew immediately it was not something we had seen before.  I was able to get some great shots of her before she flew off and made a beeline straight up the river away from us.  When I downloaded the photos I was able to immediately identify her as a female Rusty Snaketail.  Paulson's Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East states "Female oviposits in straight fast runs upcurrent, perches between brief bouts and extrudes orange-tan egg mass."   I obviously captures one of those brief bouts where she was sitting on a rock with the egg mass before zipping off up river to lay her eggs.  WOW
I can't tell you how exciting Sunday was for us....several "life" dragonflies, an amazing rescue and all in a wonderful town in north central MA.  I know this was a long post, but I hope you stuck with it....and enjoyed sharing my excitement.  Leave a comment and let me know....thanks.


1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your entire post. It was

    fascinating! Thank you!