Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Waning Days of Summer

Lestes sp. at Lillie Park, Washtenaw Co., MI

It's mid-September, and though we had a very hot August and early September, the weather is obviously cooling down, and the days are noticeably shorter form the great long days of June. Whereas it was easy to find a dozen or more dragonfly species at a time in June, by September, the fauna has become less diverse. It's time for the gliders and wanderers and the common green darners here.

I was out at Lillie Park in Pittsfield Twp. yesterday on a beautiful September day. Sunny and maybe a high of 70 or so. I haven't been there for quite a while, and since it is only a few miles from my house, I should visit there more often. Yesterday, I saw a number of Pantala flavescens, an Anax junius, a single Tramea lacerata, a few Sympetrum vicinum, numerous Lestes sp., and Argia fumipennis violacea. I didn't bring a net with me, and because of that, the Pantalas were flying almost at arm's length in front of my face as they fed on gnats. It was fun to watch their seemingly effortless ability to hover and eat. Likewise, the lone green darner was flying quite close to me. I didn't need to collect them, as I know the species that are out this time of year, and yeah, I hate identifying Lestes.

argia fumipennis

Argia fumipennis violacea.

So long as we have warmer weather, we'll still see some late-season action. Hetaerina americana and H. titia ought to still be on some of the rivers, as well as Aeshna umbrosa and Boyeria vinosa. In fact, I saw an Aeshna umbrosa in my front yard on Sunday. There may also be some Stylurus species along the Huron as well. Years earlier, I collected a lot of Aeshna species along Lake Michigan in Emmet Co. as late as mid-October. So, yes, the season is coming to a close, but it can still hold some surprises for us.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Bioblitz Day 3

Today wasn't the most productive in terms of adding more species to the Bioblitz lists, but I did manage to go into the UMBS collection and gather data from the specimens there to add to the MOS database. In the process, I was able to add Lestes eurinus to the UMBS list.

I have it pretty easy... I think we ended up with 31 species of Odonata for the three days, and when I peeked in at the moth sorting by Brian Scholtens and David Wagner, I knew that they must be tired from being up late and sorting and identifying all day...which means they will probably have the biggest species list for any single group.
sorting myriads of moths
Moth sorting!

I was able to get out thgis afternoon, but with the stiff breeze, I did not see too much, except for the species we have already seen. I did get a few photos, though of some Enallagma carunculatum mating.
mating Enallagma carunculatum

The total thus far stands at 31 species, based upon adult sightings, collected specimens, and exuviae.

Amphiagrion saucium, Enallagma carunculatum, Enallagma hageni, Enallagma cyathigerum, Enallagma ebrium, Enallagma vesperum, Nehalennia irene
Calopteryx aequabilis, Calopteryx maculata
Lestes dryas, Lestes disjunctus, Lestes forcipatus
Hagenius brevistylus, Dromogomphus spinosus, Progomphus obscurus, Gomphus spicatus, Gomphus fraternus
Aeshna canadensis, Boyeria vinosa, Basiaeschna janata
Macromia illinoiensis
Epitheca princeps, Epitheca cynosura
Celithemis elisa, Leucorrhinia frigida, Libellula luctuosa, Libellula pulchella, Libellula quadrimaculata, Plathemis lydia, Nannothemis bella, Sympetrum obtrusum

Friday, July 06, 2007

UMBS Bioblitz Day 2

Today was another one of those cloud-free days that should be just great for Odonata. In the morning, Adrienne and I checked out the area near Reeses' Swamp on the N shore of Burt Lake, and came up with only a few sightings/specimens. Carp creek runs through this area and into Burt Lake. The surrounding wetlands are spruce-cedar dominanted with birch and alders. I think this could be a good spot for some Somatochloras, but I did not see any -- and we may be a bit early. We did see and catch Amphiagrion saucium here though. I also chased down a Gomphus spicatus female that eventually got away. Sighted were Dromogomphus spinosus, Libellula pulchella, Hagenius brevistylus and I caught some Enallagma carunculatum at the shore of Burt Lake.

Afternoon was better...
students collecting
Students from Steve Pruett-Jones' class at Marl Bay.

In the afternoon, I joined Steve Pruett-Jones' class, and we motored over on pontoon boats to Sedge Point, followed by Marl Bay. The students were a lively bunch, and had a great time swinging nets to try and catch some odes. The small sandy-bottomed ponds at Sedge Point remined me a bit of some of the interdunal ponds along the shore of Lake Michigan in the UP. We were too early for any Aeshna species, though a student found two aeshnid exuviae which I'll need to ID later.

We did pretty well at Sedge Point, finding 14 species without too much hunting around. Enallagma hageni, ebrium and carunculatum were there together. The nice find was Sympetrum obtrusum as well as Leucorrhinia frigida. I am sure the place is thick with Leucorrhinia in May and June, and the lone Libellula quadrimaculata is a lone holdout from the spring. The ponds there were jumping with Lestes, and three species (for now) were collected: Lestes dryas, Lestes unguiculata and Lestes forcipata. Subject to change after I get them under the microscope. Spreadwings are a pain to field ID -- or at least some of them are.

We then went over to the other side of the Lake, to Marl Bay. Unsure of the depth and situation, our driver anchored in 2 feet of water and we hopped into the warm water. I had to watch for those nesting cavities created by sunfish, lest I trip and get soaked. The first thing we saw there was Celithemis elisa, the Calico Pennant, and eventually, one of the students snagged one. Having so many hands and eyes was very helpful. We also picked up the first Libellula luctuosa of the blitz, and finally collected a Libellula pulchella. A Plathemis lydia eluded us all.
Our total take for the day was 20 species, with 8 new species for the Bioblitz list, which stands at 29 species...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

UMBS Bioblitz Day 1

Today was the first day of the Bioblitz at UMBS (see previous post). A beauty of a day, and we were rewarded with 21 species of Odonata thus far.

Amphiagrion saucium, Enallagma carunculatum, Enallagma cyathigerum, Enallagma hageni, Enallgma vesperum ( a new record for the site); Nehallenia irene, Calopteryx aequabilis, Calopteryx maculata, Lestes dryas.

Basiaeschna janata, Progomphus obscurus, Hagenius brevistylus, Dromogomphus spinosus, Epitheca princeps, Epitheca cynosura, Macromia illinoiensis, Nannothemis bella, Plathemis lydia, Libellula pulchella, Libellula quadrimaculata, Sympetrum sp.
Progomphus obscurus
The Common Sanddragons were abundant along the lakeshore.

Hagenius brevistylus, the Dragon Hunter
The Dragonhunters were also numerous and not jittery.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Bioblitz at UMBS


I'm heading N on Wednesday to participate in the UM Biological Station's "bioblitz." No, it's not a bunch of blitzed biologists, but an endeavor to inventory the flora and fauna of the station over a couple of days. Generally, they are helpful in garnering interest in biodiversity of a given place, and it gets people all excited about looking for species. Specifically, they are useful some groups, but can only tell you so much, since these things take place only over a short period. A place like the UMBS has been sampled repeatedly for years for some organisms, and probably very rarely for others. However, in my search of our cataloged Odonata, I discovered that while there are records of 62 species from the vicinity of Douglas Lake, some species that should be more commonly represented in the database, are in fact, single specimens. I'm expecting that we will add some more numbers to the data, and possibly some additional species.

Douglas Lake isn't without some biotic changes. In recent years, several people have reported an alarming number of larval Odonata with zebra mussels situated on the backs of species such as Hagenius brevistylus and Didymops transversa. How that will influence what we will find may be a factor that I had not counted on. See my previous post on this topic.

The last published list of Odonata from UMBS was done a very long time ago by Arthur T. Evans in 1916. Abigail O'Brien published a short list in 1910. It ought to be interesting to see what comparisons can be made 91 years later.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Raisin River Treasure

Violet Dancer

Argia fumipennis violacea

Today, Marjorie and I went over to the Raisin River at Sharon Hollow and Sharon Mill, in the SW part of Washtenaw Co., and came up with a new county record. After many missed attempts that probably made us look like fools, I netted a Nasiaeshna pentacantha - the Cyrano darner. I saw several flying over the impoundment by the dam at Sharon Mill. I had seen one or two there in previous years, but was never able to snag one. I decided that it might be better to take the trail at the Nan Weston Nature Preserve that ends at the Raisin River, as I had been there previously, and there is some nice habitat there. So, off we went. The boardwalk that runs through most of the preserve crosses several small streams. The first of them is about 18 inches wide, a few inches deep, with some flow, and a sandy bottom. I always wondered if there were any odes there. There are lots of Calopteryx maculata (Ebony jewelwing) there and they are always fun to watch. While we were admiring them, a Cordulegaster maculata came buzzing slowly down the stream. We both missed on the two passes that he made. Oh well. At least I know it's there.

The Raisin River from the Nan Weston Preserve

At the terminus of the trail at the bank of the Raisin River we found some potential spots -- lots of Pickerelweed, some spatterdock, some floodplain shrubby areas, and we were not disappointed. Within minutes we saw several Cyrano darners cruise by, as well as Macromia illinoiensis and Dromogomphus spinosus. There are some tree snags in the slough area of the river here, and the River Cruisers were hangoing out by them. The Cyrano darners were plentiful - in fact, the most I have ever seen. We ALMOST caught one of them several times, but they somehow managed to elude the nets at the last millisecond. Finally, around 2:45 PM I caught one in my net, and at the time, I did not realize it was a new county record.

So, a successful day!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A Good Day at Embury Road


Lestes dryas male

At some point, I'm going to have to finish up the Odes of Washtenaw County, seeing that there really is no reason not to, other than inertia. Today was a good visit to one of my favorite Odonata sites, Embury Road over in Lyndon Twp., on the NW corner of the county. That particular area is wonderfully diverse, with Tamarack bogs, cattail marshes, small fens, seeps, deciduous woods, streams and small lakes. Marjorie accompanied me today, and caught the first dragonfly of the day along the roadside, which turned out to be an Epitheca cynosura.

We saw a lot of activity, and the only dragonfly that we could not catch was a Tramea onusta (pretty sure on that) that stayed about 20 feet high before it finally flew off.
Here's a list of what we saw and or caught:
Anax junius
Rhionaeschna mutata
Celithemis elisa
Libellula pulchella
Libellula cyanea
Libellua incesta
Libellula luctuosa
Leucorrhinia intacta
Ladona julia
Plathemis lydia
Erythemis simplicicollis
Pachydiplax longipennis
Tramea onusta
Epitheca cynosura
Gomphus spicatus
Cordulegaster maculata (near stream)
Argia fumipennis violacea
Calopteryx maculata
Lestes dryas
Enallagma sp.

Twenty species isn't bad!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

More mutata!

I was at Nichols Arboretum today photographing the peonies with Adrienne-- the weather was overcast, humid, threatning to rain -- in other words, a great day for Rhionaeschna mutata -- I saw at least three flying around the peony garden, and a few were catching small insects. I managed to get a rather crappy photo of one hanging onto a flower, since I did not have the macro lens on the camera. However, one can at least see that it is a mutata male.

Tachopteryx thoreyi - Friday June 1, I was at Warren Woods in Berrien Co. Just as I pulled into the parking area, a large black and gray darner flew by. I was able to follow it for a few seconds and then it went off into the woods -- I am positive it was T. thoreyi. Have yet to catch one, and photograph one... but I'll be back.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spatterdock Darners are back

Rhionaeschna mutata

About 8 years ago, I started looking at the Ode fauna along the Embury Road area in NW Washtenaw Co., MI. That first year, Ethan Bright and I scouted out a small pond on the E side of Embury Rd. that wasn't on any maps, except as a wetland. At that time, the water was about 2 feet deep, and that year, we saw plenty of Rhionaeschna mutata, the Spatterdock darner. It turns out that mutata is predominantly found in fish-less ponds, and this pond was full of spatterdock and fish-less. It also turned out that the pond is an intermittent one, as a few years ago, it was just a muddy wet area with a few tiny puddles of water. So, being an intermittent pond, fish can't survive there --but Odonata certainly can!

Last Friday, I visited the pond and the nearby hillside where the odonata that emerge often go to feed and mature. It was a day with clouds and intermittent rain, but the place was filled with thousands of recently-emerged Nehallenia irene.
Nehalennia irene

Phil Myers from the UMMZ was also with me, and we proceeded to photograph Lestes dryas, N. irene, Celithemis elisa, and Leucorrhinia intacta.

After we were there about an hour, I saw a big darner zip by and fly around in the clearing for a few seconds... it was large, and at first I thought Basiaeschna janata. Then it landed on the trunk of a tree. I crept towards it, hoping that I could get a few shots and figure out what it was. As I got closer it realized it was an immature Spatterdock darner. After I got a few shots, I slowly moved my hand towards her and was able to grab her as a voucher! SO, the good news is that R. mutata is back at the pond, and it now has about a foot of water in it -- but it's still way below what the level was in 1998.

I need to go back on a sunny day this week and see what else is flying!

Monday, April 30, 2007

First Green Darner of 2007

First Green Darner of 2007
Originally uploaded by mfophotos.
Well, it's not THE first green darner of 2007 in Michigan (I believe Stephen Ross sighted one a couple of weeks ago), but it's the first one that I have seen. I saw my first green darners of the season (Anax junius) yesterday at Metzger Marsh and Crane Creek wildlife areas along Lake Erie in NW Ohio. Later in the day, I watched several zip back and forth along the edge of the beach. Funny how these first migrants into our area are no less interesting than the myraids of warblers and other birds that I saw there. If our nice weather holds... I expect to see our first resident odes emerging by next week - Enallagma boreale, Epitheca spp., and Ladona julia. If you are lucky to love near some bogs -- check out the trails and 2-tracks for the boghaunters - Williamsonia. NOW is the time.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Nymphal Maniac

For the past few weeks, I have been slogging through the larval specimens deposited here by the Michigan Natural Features Inventory from their 1997 Larval Survey. Yesterday, I entered the data for the last of the vials, which gives us about 4470 vials databased. I'll update the web versions of the databases after we switch to Filemaker Server 8.