Dragon Hunting 2007

Dot-tailed Whiteface FemaleI finally did my first official Dragonfly Survey for 2007 today with the help of our college intern, Kim.  This is year three of a 3-year study (which might be extended to 5 years) for the Natural Heritage Program.

It was a sunny, breezy day with temps around 80F.  I was rusty, and Kim was a beginner, so netting a few to photograph was comical at best.  I forgot the field guides and paper & pencil, so we had to rely on memory and camera shots to reconstruct a datasheet when we got back to the office.

Dot-tailed Whiteface FemaleMy first catch puzzled me.  It had a white face, though, so I was sure I could figure it out when I got the chance to look at the pictures.  Turned out to be a female Dot-tailed Whiteface.  I probably should have guessed that!  We had a lot of Dot-tailed Whitefaces around these ponds last summer.  Hey… I told you: I’m rusty!

Many of the others I knew on the wing.  But I netted them for practice:  practice netting AND practice photographing.  At my training a couple of years ago, we were trained to use a white magnetic dry erase board and to hold them down by the wings with magnets.  Jeremy Martin had showed me a new way to hold them for photographing and I liked that way much better.  I like the photos better, and I like that I can carry less equipment in the field.

Common BaskettailThis little Baskettail was very cooperative.  After several shots using the wing hold, and the leg hold, I got ready to let her go.  She didn’t want to leave.  She sat on my finger for quite some time allowing me to take several more shots of her.  Finally, I was getting antsy to try to net another, so I set her on a bush on the other side of the trail.  Eventually, she took off.  I’m looking forward to searching for eggs from this species.  They lay them in long strings – like miniature Toad eggs.

Unicorn ClubtailMany of the clubtail species tend to be found in river habitats.  The Unicorn Clubtail likes muddy-bottomed ponds, however, so we regularly see them at Audubon; we have lots of muddy-bottomed ponds!  Clubtails and Petaltails have eyes wide apart.  All other families of dragons have eyes that touch.

I didn’t get photos of the others that were flying.  But here’s a list of the species Kim and I saw.  There were a few damsels, too, but I’m not sure what they were.  Unicorn Clubtail - the face only a Mother could loveEarlier in the morning, when I had too many kids around me, there were loads and loads of spreadwing tenerals… I’m not sure what kind.

Common Whitetail
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Common Baskettail
Unicorn Clubtail
Blue Dasher
Common Green Darner
Dot-tailed Whiteface female

By the way, I netted a Twelve-spotted Skimmer male who was not at all cooperative.  He thrashed around in the net and between his thrashing and my attempt to calm him, we managed to damage his wings.  He also bit me 2 or 3 times.  Anyone else have this kind of experience with Twelve-spotteds?  Is it a species trait to be feisty?

4 thoughts on “Dragon Hunting 2007

  1. Fantastic photos, and a reminder to visit a wildlife refuge soon. I was there last June and a grassy spot down by the water was teeming with damselflies, many of them a stunning iridescent blue. Do you have any posts of damselflies?

  2. Great job! The pictures are fantastic. We will have to get you looking at the damsels soon. They are much easier to photograph, and the bluets are so much fun to ID! I am surprised that you didn’t see a Widow Skimmer out; add that to the list and you could make a poster of the most frequent visitors to the Audubon. I’ll see you tomorrow at RTPI (I’ll be a little late though; I have an eye appointment at 8:45).

  3. Larry: After you net them, you have to reach in and try to get the wings up over the back – hold all four wings together between finger and thumb. That’s the wing hold – I’m using it on the last photo above.
    To switch to the leg hold, I set the dragon on my pointer finger, then gently pinch a couple of the legs on one side of the body between my pointer and my thumb. That’s how I’m holding all the other ones, except the Common Baskettail who is just sitting on my finger, too tired to move, I guess…

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