Friday, December 11, 2015

Here be Dragons

As always, I spent lots of time this summer looking for dragonflies and damselflies. Here are some of the highlights.

Eastern Red Damsel is a tiny species found in a variety of odd habitats. This was one of several around a small damp area in the middle of dense coniferous forest on the Bruce Peninsula.

As always, emeralds of the genus Somatochlora are a big highlight. These are a female and then a male Kennedy's Emerald. Like several other species in the genus, Kennedy's is found in still or slow moving shallow water in boggy sedge meadows.

Harlequin Darner is subtly marked but is very distinctive when you take a close look. I rarely encounter this species, so I immediately stopped my bike when I noticed a small darner flying past me in June. I eventually saw two or three Harlequin Darners at this spot after spending half an hour trying, and mostly failing, to catch one.

Extra-striped Snaketail was another new species for me. Despite seeing many flying out over the rapids and getting great binocular views, I was never able to catch one. Luckily Peter's skill with a net came through yet again and I was able to get close views of one.

My second new species for Algonquin this summer was a Somatochlora: Delicate Emerald. The males of this well-named species is easily recognised by their absurdly thin abdomen. 

I don't think there is an animal or plant with a better common name than the Stygian Shadowdragon. Although not much to look at, they have an incredible life history, only coming out in the evening as it starts to get really dark. This summer we were caught in a heavy rainstorm while catching shadowdragons, and the rugged dragonflies kept flying for several minutes!

Another amazing species, Wandering Gliders breed in small temporary pools like the one in the background here. They can travel very long distances, being found on six continents with some populations making regular migrations over open ocean and covering thousands of kilometres (see here).

On a quick trip south of the Canadian Shield we saw several Halloween Pennants (another great common name!). This is one of a number of species whose distribution ends very abruptly at the south edge of the Shield.

The ode highlight of the summer for me was another Somatochlora: Incurvate Emerald. I had some 15 individuals this summer, and others had more. This likely exceeds the total number of previous records from Algonquin. This species is found in shallow pools, and I suspect many die annually as the pools dry up. Summer of 2014 was very wet and I believe this is the reason for such a spike in numbers in 2015.

Incurvate was my third new species for the park this year, bringing my total over 100. At this point, there are very few species that I could possibly add!

Shown are a male and then a female. The yellow spots along the abdomen are only shown by a couple species, and can sometimes be seen in flight.

I got very excited after this whiteface landed on my bicycle, as the size and colouration do not match any of the expected Algonquin species. However, it turns out that some female Belted Whitefaces (normally yellow) can turn red with age, and thus look very like some major rarities. Oh well!

I rarely see female Mottled Darners, so this one was a treat. The habitat in the backround is very typical - a shallow sandy lake with pickerelweed and other emergent vegetation.

1 comment:

  1. Great sightings. For dragons, 2015 was a great year for me as well. I got three lifers around North Bay -- Amber-winged Spreadwing, Extra-striped Snaketail and Fragile Forktail. Down south in the Peterborough and Pres'quile area I got four lifers, though common -- Halloween Pennant, Wandering Glider, Blue Dasher and Familiar Bluet. It is getting tough to find new species in the North Bay area but I haven't run out of easy targets in the south yet.