Friday, October 15, 2010

The End Is Near

The end of the ode season, that is. Pictured here is a Sympetrum semicinctum that I saw on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at Matthaei Botanical Gardens. I also saw S. vicinum and about 6 Aeshna umbrosa. It amazes me how wary the darners are so late in the fall. I was up in Cheboygan and Emmet counties late last week, and there were a few darners here and there, and I never was able to catch one. They are prone to resting on tree trunks, and those damn branches get in the way of capture. They also fly off at the slightest provocation, which they do not do earlier in the season. Maybe it'e the wary ones that survive the longest. While I was in Wilderness State Park, I managed to catch 4 species of Sympetrum -- costiferum, danae, obtrusum, and rubicundulum. I only saw S. vicinum at Cheboygan State Park.

While Adrienne and I were on a mini vacation, we drove up to Whitefish Point and visited Mike and Susan Kielb. They have a beautiful new place that is a perfect fit for their surroundings and their interests. We enjoyed our walk around with them and were treated to a wonderful lunch. They are about a half-mile from the point, and what an ideal location for watching for dragonflies (oh yeah, and those pesky birds...).

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Quick trip to Crosswinds Marsh

Aeshna canadensis on tree by Marjorie O'Brien

Yesterday afternoon, Jorie and Stephanie accompanied me for a short visit to Crosswinds Marsh (CM) in Sumpter Twp., in SW Wayne County. CM is not a naturally-occurring marsh, but is a mitigated wetland that was constructed in the early 1990's as a result of the expansion of Detroit Metro Airport. There are approximately 900 acres of habitat connected by a series of beautiful boardwalks that interconnect over the water. It's a very visually appealing place, though the large landfill to the east is a bit disconcerting, and of course, there are big jets in the air at all times, as they come in to Detroit Metro. If you can sort of blot out the jets, the marsh is a very nice visit. Yesterday was my first time there, and though not exactly a collecting trip, I was interested in seeing what it might be like for future trips when odes are about. Though it was sunny, it was only about 68°F and the best days of dragonflies are long behind us. However, we did see lots of Sympetrum vicinum, which will be around until the hard frosts finally do them in. As we were walking back along a trail that skirts the edge of the woods, Marjorie spied a darner getting some sun on the trunk of a tree. After she took a series of photos (above), I tried catching it by hand. I almost had it, but was not aggressive enough it it barely got away. From what I can tell, it looks like Aeshna canadensis. Crosswinds is actually an easy drive from Ann Arbor, so I will be out there again next season, and see if I can find something that Julie and Darren haven't yet seen. :D

Monday, August 09, 2010

Clamp-tipped Emerald spotted in Manistee Co.

Today, I received an e-mail from David Dister:

Dear Mark:

Today while checking a wetland area along the Little Manistee River (where I had discovered a massasuaga rattlesnake two summers ago), I noticed a quite distinctive dragonfly I was not familiar with. I managed to get a few marginal, though diagnostic, photos, and upon returning to my car and references, it appears to be Somatochlora tenebrosa. I have attached a few photos for your reference. The state mapping for this species on your website has Manistee County darkened, but the list of vouchers indicates only Benzie County records in the northwest LP.

With such a limited range, I was a bit surprised that this species did not have a Special Concern status in Michigan. In any event, the basic data on the location is as follows:

  • Manistee Co., Stronach Township, Manistee National Forest; T21N/ R 16W/Section 23
  • Feature: Flying and perching in scrub-shrub/emergent marsh wetlands on north side of Little Manistee River
  • August 8, 2010 Dave Dister
  • Sex: Male
  • Notes: Photo voucher only

While I am not surprised that David found S. tenebrosa in Manistee Co. (Carl Freeman had many collections of it in nearby Benzie Co.), the indication is that he found it in a fen, as that's also a place to find the Massasauga rattlers! Maybe we should be looking at known Massasauga sites and see if Somatochlora tenebrosa is also there. Sometimes the answer stares right at us and we don't see it for a long time.

Hopefully, we will get a specimen vouchered for the site, and I am glad that David was alert to realizing he was seeing an uncommonly-collected species in MI.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Sharon Hills Preserve

Continuing my theme on Washtenaw County preserves, today's post is about yesterday's trip to Sharon Hills Preserve. Located off Sharon Hollow Road, this 69-acre preserve is mostly old fields with some wooded areas. Although there are significant wetlands to the south, I don't believe they are part of the parcel. As the name implies, the preserve is hilly - some nice glacial mounds with predominantly sandy soil.

Adrienne and I arrived in late morning, and the first thing we encountered were several darners and gliders feeding over a grassy depression. I spotted Tramea lacerata, Pantala flavescens, Anax junius, and an Aeshna that I would eventually catch and identify as Aeshna tuberculifera. While these upland areas may not be Odonata breeding habitat, they are essential feeding habitats, and based upon the number of darners we saw, I'd say there was a lot of feeding going on. In addition, I saw the largest concentration of Sympetrum semicinctum that I have ever seen. They were very, very, common at the preserve. We also saw a few Libellula pulchella, Libellula luctuosa, and a Pachydiplax longipennis, which is getting late in the season for that species.

Sympetrum semicinctum

The A. tuberculifera were numerous -- I counted many dozens, and the 5 that I captured were all males, a couple were saved for vouchers. Based upon what I saw, it was the only Aeshna species there that day. Typically, they were either flying less than 6 feet above the ground, and often into the grasses and open vegetation, making it difficult to track them. I saw many settle down, perched from a twig in the shade. The Green darners were mostly swooping around over 6 feet above the ground, or hanging from a bush.

Aeshna tuberculifera

We saw three treefrogs, and they are always a delightful find.

Vegetation-wise, we saw lots of invasive herbaceous plants - hedge parsely, some Euphorbia, some spotted knapweed, the ubiquitous Queen Anne's Lace, and soapwort. We did not see any of the teasel that has become so much of a problem. The dry hills there could be reseeded for more prairie-type species that would give the site a more oak-savanna type of habitat.

So, while we didn't find any nice wetland on the preserve, we did see lots of butterflies and other insects, and diversity is the key here.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

NE Washtenaw Preserves

Anax junius at LeFurge Preserve

Today I decided to pay a visit to two preserves in the NE part of Washtenaw County - LeFurge Preserve and Kosch-Headwaters Preserve. The Washtenaw County Natural Areas Preservation Program, NAPP, has been active in acquiring parcels that help preserve and enhance the watersheds and also feature an array of habitats. Another organization, the Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy, has been active for well over a decade, acquiring properties and consolidating holdings on the eastern edge of the county, and the star has been the LeFurge Preserve - 325 acres of wetlands, old fields, and some woods. I visited the LeFurge wetland back in 1999, when it was first being developed into a quality wetland. Today’s visit was the first since then, and it was gratifying to see how much the preserve has been enhanced with natural plantings, as well as the nice parking area.

The wetland there is predominated by a cattail marsh with deeper areas featuring a lot of water lilies and other emergent aquatic vegetation. In 1999, Anax junius was common there, and today, it was really abundant. I was amazed at how many I saw flying there. They truly seemed to own the airspace. I also saw a few Tramea lacerata, many Sympetrum obtrusum, Pachydiplax longipennis, and a few Ischnura verticalis. Obviously, a sample early in the season would be good. I’ll try doing that next year.

My next stop was the Kosch-Headwaters Preserve, a bit farther N on Prospect Rd. A relatively new preserve, it was acquired in 2006 by NAPP. This preserve is 160 acres in size, and is actually in the River Rouge Watershed, not the Huron River. Much of the area is covered with old fields, some woods, good brushy areas, and a wooded pond. Some of the preserve is also cultivated farmland. I didn’t really know what to expect here, but the terrain is somewhat hilly, and the meadows supported a LOT of butterflies. Odonata-wise, it’s not going to be too impressive, but I did find a lot of Lance-tipped darners, Aeshna constricta, which I assume are coming from the wooded pond or some nearby open ponds. I saw Libellula pulchella, Libellula luctuosa, Plathemis lydia, Tramea lacerata, and many Sympetrum at the field edges. I did not see a single Anax junius there, even though the preserve was less than a mile from Lefurge! This shows how good it is to have a diverse habitat -- and those wooded ponds are very important. One of the original points about the Kosch Headwaters Preserve was the presence of Blue Ash. I wonder if the Emerald Ash Borer has taken that out, too.

wooded pond -- there are several whitetail fawns there, but you can't see them!

Aeshna constricta.

I hope to visit as many of the Washtenaw County Preserves as possible in the remaining two months of the Odonata season, and possibly scout out others for next year.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Back from a Hiatus

I'm embarrassed that I have not posted to this blog in almost 3 years. I guess I was just a bit worn-out from doing so much work on Odonata since 1996. Aside from some occasional forays into the field, and cataloging incoming MOS records, I was not making much progress on the MOS project myself. With things at work being a bit depressing, my other outlet, photography, was getting most of my attention. I think I am back to finding a balance, and have been collecting mostly locally this summer. One good week in late May in the UP made me feel pretty good about finding a lot of early records, and a new county record for Williamsonia fletcheri - Baraga Co.

One good turn has been the local expansion of protected lands, and the establishment of some nice wetlands on the S end of Lillie Park in Pittsfield Township. I have been out in Pittsfield Preserve, too, and that shows some promise. There are some wooded wetlands there that deserve some attention with an insect net. I have plans for getting more collecting done in Washtenaw County this season and next. I would definitely like to find Libellula vibrans here.

Stay tuned.