Akeley Swamp: (Butterflies and) Wildflowers!

Our first attempt to see butterflies at Akeley Swamp was a washout.  We kinda knew it would be, which is why we didn’t bother with cameras.  But the wildflowers were riotous and the potential was great, so we planned to return in a couple of days when the forecast was more promising.

My car thermometer read 47 degrees and the valley was full of mist.  I got there an hour before the other two.  I took a leisurely stroll up the trail and I photographed lots of flowers without the distraction of contrast-y sunshine.

More true confessions:  I don’t hike much in summer because I don’t tolerate the heat well and the bugs absolutely love me.  So, some of the flowers along this trail were strangers to me!  I was delighted by the cool temperatures and the opportunity to learn them.


Wild Phlox

In spring, I have to tell folks all the time that Dame’s Rocket is not Wild Phlox. I explain that Dame’s Rocket is a 4-petaled flower and Phlox has five petals… But until visiting Akeley in summer, I hadn’t ever seen Phlox – at least not that I remember.


Wild Phlox

Some of the plants had sparser blooms. I’m still not sure if they are a different variety, or just a younger, less robust plant.  It seems this variety had white blooms, while the other plants had pink.

IMG_5241-St Johnswort
This St John’s Wort was familiar to me. I see it all over the place, along roadsides, in fields.  I know several other varieties, too, but didn’t find them at Akeley.  But this one:


St John’s Wort

This taller, bolder St John’s Wort was completely new to me!



I puzzled for quite some time trying to figure this one out. Leaves kind of like clover. Blossoms like peas. Turns out, it’s alfalfa.  Thanks to Kathleen for helping with that ID.

IMG_5222-Mystery Flower

Mystery Flower

I still don’t know what this one is. If you know, please tell me!
UPDATE:  Duh!  The Mystery Flower is Purple Loosestrife… I just didn’t recognize it with so few blossoms open.  Thanks to the folks on Flickr in the ID Please group for helping me out.  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jenniferschlick/19572581449/)

There were also plenty of old friends:

IMG_5169-Tall Meadow Rue

Tall Meadow Rue

IMG_5132-Common Milkweed

Common Milkweed

IMG_5221-Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed


Queen Anne’s Lace (aka Wild Carrot)

IMG_5249-Purple Loosestrife

Purple Loosestrife



IMG_5237-Cardinal Flower

Cardinal Flower



My friends, Barbara Ann the Monarch Mama, and Jeff Zablow of wingedbeauty.com joined me as the fog was burning off and the insects were coming out. Of course, insects, unlike wildflowers, aren’t likely to sit still long enough for me to photograph… But I did get a couple:

IMG_5178-Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing (a damselfly, not a butterfly!)

I saw three or four species of butterflies. (Jeff saw many more – but then – he’s experienced!) This is the only one that posed long enough for me to get the camera set up and shoot:



Many thanks to friends who lure me away from desk to go exploring nature!


Jeff Zablow: scouting butterflies

Jeff will be the First Friday Lunch Bunch speaker at Jamestown Audubon in June 2016! He promises to take us on a Butterfly Walk after his indoor presentation.


Barb: the Monarch Mama

Akeley Swamp is a part of the Pennsylvania State Game lands. Be careful and wear blaze orange if you hike there during hunting season. It is also designated by Audubon Pennsylvania as an official IBA (Important Bird Area) because it is a stop over for water-loving birds during migration.

Learn more:



The hot weather is not my favorite. But it’s good for dragonflies!

There were tons of Meadowhawks in the field near the bird banding station.

Also in the field were Slender Spreadwings… so delicate!

Over on the bridge at Spatterdock Pond I spotted Eastern Pondhawks. It is easy to tell male from female by color. The males are blue and green, the females green and black.

There were also Dot-tailed Whitefaces. This one’s hind wing is a little tattered.

I also saw Common Whitetails, Twelve-spotted Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and Common Green Darners… but none of them would sit still for a portrait.

Watts Flats Wildlife Management Area

Watts Flats WMA SignOne of the bird walks for Audubon’s spring birding series will be at the Watts Flats Wildlife Mangement Area. I decided to check it out today. I’m frankly kind of suprised I’ve never run upon it before this. It is so close, and so accessible.

We parked at a lot at the corner of Swede Road and Green Flats Road.

Before getting to the parking lot, we saw a mink bound over Swede Road in front of us. Later we would also see a muskrat, and plenty of evidence of beaver activity:

Beaver Activity

We parked close to Swede Road and walked Green Flats Road to the second parking lot. It looked as Green Flats Road is supposed to continue as a grassy trail.

Path to bridge

But the bridge and much of the trail was under water!

Bridge - flooded

We turned left instead and into the woods. The trail was wet – even covered with water in some places. But I could see it would be a very nice trail when the water goes down a bit. We hiked out until we got to a spot where the trail was covered with two feet of water, then turned around and back out to the car.

Along the way, we saw plenty of wildlife.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Garter Snake
Eastern Garter Snake

Canada Goose
Canada Goose

We also saw robins and crows, a red-tailed hawk, a pair of frisky kingfishers, and a very large bird that we could not identify. I swear it was shaped like a cormorant, but it was a light brown color. I heard red-winged blackbirds, but never saw one. Dozens of frogs jumped into the water before we could see what they were. And we even saw dragonflies – one was definitely a Common Green Darner. I suspect the other one was, too, but I couldn’t get a good look.

Plants were also plentiful, though not many in bloom yet.

Pussy Willows
Pussy Willow

Colt's Foot
Colt’s Foot

Ground Pine
Ground Pine

It was a very pleasant afternoon walk. I look forward to going back early in the morning in a few weeks as part of the birding classes. Hopefully the water will be down and we can hike around that pond.

Green Flats Road
Walking back to the car…

After the Rain…

It rained this morning. As the clouds thinned, the light became perfect for photography, so I headed down to Audubon to see if the adorable Yellow Warblers were out by the overlook again (and to practice using my 100-400mm lens). They were… taking inchworm after inchworm to a nest that was hidden from view.

Yellow Warbler

I watched for quite a long time and was also treated to a Swamp Sparrow singing his little heart out.

Swamp Sparrow

The Red-winged Blackbirds who are also nesting in the shrubs would not pose nicely for pictures. Other wildlife along my path did, however…

Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Eastern Garter Snake
Eastern Garter Snake in one of the Woodpecker Holes in the Dead Elm Tree

Tadpoles in the pond along the maintenance road

And, back at the building:

Eastern Chipmunk
An adorable Eastern Chipmunk in the Bird Garden

The Results Are In

A fat package arrived from The Natural Heritage Program.  A letter from the project coordinator.  A certificate of appreciation for my contributions.  And a big fat book containing the results of the New York Dragonfly and Damselfly Survey (NYDDS) – a project that began in 2005 and continued through the summer and early fall of 2009.

I’m just loving flipping through the pages one by one…  The maps… The charts…  The photographs (some of them mine 🙂 )… The information…

I’m very proud of these accomplishments:

  1. Spatterdock DarnerChautauqua County tied for 6th in the number surveys submitted.  A lot of those surveys (most) came from Jeremy Martin.  And a lot came from folks at Audubon:  staff, a board member, college interns, and day camp and other program participants.
  2. Of the 72 species we racked up for Chautauqua County, fully half were new county records – species that had never been verified for our county previous to 2005.
  3. Six of the species we verified were considered to be “species of greatest conservation need.” 
  4. We were the only county to verify 100% of the expected species for our county.

And I have a deep feeling of satisfaction over all the people that got hooked on nature via dragonflies over the years:

Justin and Phyllis - Dragon Hunters
Justin and Phyllis

Widow Skimmer

Releasing a Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk Male on Z's Hand

Kim holds female Ebony Jewelwing

John Wilson Hunts Dragons

Jeremy Martin at Work




… and I could go on and on …

Thanks to all who helped out with this survey!  I hope you are as proud of the results as I am.


Eastern ForktailWhen I went to Girl Scout camp (a billion years ago), there were several staff members who didn’t have their own group of girls to camp with:  the lifeguards, the camp director, the maintenance staff…  So we used to invite them to come to our units for cookouts.  We actually made written, decorated invitations.  We picked flowers to make a centerpiece for the table…  Wow.

I remembered all that because today, I (the camp director) got an invitation…  verbal, not written… but welcome, just the same.  Not for a cookout, but something more fun!  The kids in the Nature Safari group invited me to go dragon-hunting with them.  And it just so happens that today, the weather cooperated and there were all kinds of dragons flying!

Eastern Pondhawk Male
Eastern Pondhawk

Common Green Darner - female
Common Green Darner (female):  Actually, we didn’t see the female when I was out with the kids… I found her later, after the kids were gone.  But during camp, Allie actually caught a male while at the pond!!  Unfortunately, he wiggled free before getting a photo.

Blue Dasher
Blue Dasher


Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Also flying, but unphotographable: Widow Skimmers, Common Whitetails, Spreadwings, Other Damsels… It was a good day for Odes.


One of the reasons I wanted the longer lens: Dragonflies! They were always just out of reach with my kit lens. The weather has been weird and we haven’t been seeing as many as in some summers… But here are a few I’ve managed to capture:

Blue Dasher
Blue Dasher

Eastern Pondhawk - Male
Eastern Pondhawk – Male

Common Whitetail Dragonfly
Common Whitetail (OK, I’ve posted this one before…)

I also saw Widow Skimmers and Black Saddlebags yesterday – but they wouldn’t light anywhere close enough for a picture…

We usually see so many more species and individuals. How are the dragonflies this year where you live?

A Prince at Girl Scout Camp

I went with Maddie last Saturday to Girl Scout Camp Seven Hills.  She had a life guarding gig and I had never seen the camp, so…  While she made sure nobody drowned, I walked around the very small lake to see what I could see.

One of my favorite finds was a newly emerged Prince Baskettail dragonfly.  I snapped this shot on my way around the lake…

Prince Baskettail Teneral

And this one on my way back…

Prince Baskettail

I watched him for quite some time after taking pictures.  It was very breezy and he was being tossed this way and that.  Just before he flew for the cover of nearby trees, he quivered and shivered for 10-15 seconds.

Prince Baskettails are quite large and seem to prefer ponds, lakes, and streams that are near wooded areas.  Adult males develop pretty green eyes.  I have yet to find one at Audubon…  But I have seen them at Camp Timbercrest and at RTPI.  I’ve only managed to photograph tenerals (newly emerged adults)… Because usually when I see them, they are patrolling at about shoulder height – back and forth and back and forth right in front of my eyes…  teasing, “You can’t catch me!  Not with that net, not with that camera!”

Intergenerational Elderhostel

This is Jamestown Audubon’s first experience offering an intergenerational Elderhostel program.  The theme is insects, but participants will also take general nature walks and birding walks.  They will kayak in two different locations and take a ride on Chautauqua Lake on the Summer Wind.

I got to spend Sunday evening and a good chunk of Monday with our small but pleasant group.  Here are some highlights:

Sarah came along and calmed a Water Snake for a Close Encounter and some snake education:

Water Snakes have keeled scales which makes for a rough texture on top:

The belly is as smooth as can be:
The belly of the Water Snake is smooth as can be

We also saw a Garter Snake, Leopard Frogs, and Grasshoppers along the way, along with lots of funky fungi and strange parasitic wildflowers.

In the afternoon, the group proved to be rather adept at catching dragonflies. Here’s a Halloween Pennant:

And check out this mating pair of Eastern Forktails, caught in midflight:

So, welcome Elderhostel participants.  I hope you have a great week.  More pictures from the Elderhostel experience can be found here and will be updated throughout the week: FLICKR PIX

Dragon Hunting

Last Wednesday, I had the distinct pleasure of leading Phyllis and Justin on a Dragon Hunting adventure.

Justin and Phyllis - Dragon Hunters

They were in town from Oregon… quite a long way from here!  Originally, they had signed up for an Elderhostel intergenerational program we offer, but the June offering had to be cancelled.  They were the only ones signed up, unfortunately.  Not easily deterred, the adventurous pair did not cancel their travel plans.  So, off we went… the hunt was on!

Our first find (other than the ubiquitous Eastern Forktail) was a pretty little Slender SpreadwingSlender Spreadwing
Spreadwings are a kind of damselfly.  The Slender Spreadwing male is quite lovely: blue eyes, greenish shoulder stripes, lemon yellow under his thorax, metallic bronzy-green abdomen.  With spreadwings, to provide positive identification for the NYS Survey, you need to photograph the terminal appendage.

Slender Spreadwing Terminal Appendage

Justin learned quickly the safe way to handle these beauties, Justin Investigates Slender Spreadwing
and it wasn’t long before he got the knack of capturing them in his aerial net.

For most of the other species we found the NYS scientists require nothing more than an observation because the field marks are so distinctive it is difficult to confuse them for anything else. We captured them and photographed them nonetheless, just for fun.

Blue Dasher (male)
Blue Dasher

Eastern Pondhawk (male)
Eastern Pondhawk Male

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (female)
Twelve-spotted Skimmer Female

Common Whitetail (male)
Common Whitetail Male
This is the third year of the survey. I’ve seen plenty of Common Whitetails in a variety of habitats. I have never been able to net one, nor had anyone in my group that has netted one. But Justin did! Way to go, Justin!

Dot-tailed Whiteface (male)
Dot-tailed Whiteface

Face to Face with a Dot-tailed WhitefaceIt was a great day and I will file two official datasheets, as we visited two separate sites on the Audubon property.  I will also (eventually) log the two site surveys at my Odonata blog, which you can see by clicking here.

Dragons weren’t our only finds…

Check out this awesome caterpillar that Phyllis found.  I think it’s one of the Checkerspots:


I kept spotting little grasshoppers when I was looking for dragons:Little Grasshopper

We stopped to check out the owl pellet and found this tiny jawbone:
Tiny Jaw Bone

It was great spending a couple of hours with this curious pair of visitors.  Justin, it was great to meet you.  You are a very delightful person and you have a really cool grandma.  Phyllis, it was great to meet you.  You’re doing a great thing with your grandkids.  I can STILL remember a trip I took with my grandma when I was but FIVE years old.  I didn’t get to meet Emily, but if she is as grateful as Justin, it must be a joy to spend time with her, too.

Happy travels!