Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween from the Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina.

Stay tuned for an exciting announcement later this week...

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The season is winding down

I was out at Pittsfield Preserve yesterday in the late afternoon, and amazed at how much it had changed since I was last there in July. Of course now the corn is mature and is a significant feature in the fields that surround the wooded areas, but the mosquitoes were not too diminished. There is a small pond (which had a muskrat in it the last time I was there), and I walked over to it in search of anything Ode-like. I did catch an Enallagma civile - the first for the Preserve (at least in my records). The sun was getting low in the sky (it was after 6:30) so I really didn't expect to see much...and it is September. However, I saw some slowly fluttering wings that said "skimmer". I tracked the dragonfly until it landed in clump of vegetation and swung my net -- and ended up with a Pantala flavescens that looked quite fresh. A good start for the evening, I thought, and it would be my only capture for the rest of the time I was there. I saw one Anax junius cruise by, and thought that was pretty much going to be it. The sun was partially obscured by some thunderheads to the West, and I figured it was time to head back to the car. I looked to the East, toward the woods, and realized that there was a big crowd of darners working the edge of the field! I slowly approached, and I estimate that there were several dozen A. junius. As much as I tried, I did not catch anything - even when some of them came straight at me. I also missed what was very clearly an Aeshna-something, as they have a habit of flying close to the vegetation and it may have been looking for a place to land. I also saw one Tramea lacerata head towards the tree-line. After enjoying this spectacle for 20 minutes or so, they all disappeared about 7:20 pm, as the sun was at the horizon and it was getting dark. It was time for me to leave then, too.

I had high hopes for myself at the start of the season, but really only managed to get out and do any collecting/observation a few times per month. However, the fact that there are some new enthusiasts up in the Lansing area, Saginaw, Houghton, and of course, the dynamic Julie-Darrin Duo in Wayne Co., makes up for me being a slacker. Doug McWhirter has been busy up in the Lansing area, and has been issuing monthly updates on the Odes that his group has been recording. I'll be putting that list up on the MOS site this fall for a yearly summary.

Now of course, we are seeing a lot of migrants, but I hope that I can get out and catch some Hetaerina titia near Manchester on the Raisin River this weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Catching Up

I know I don't post to this blog as often as I should, and I have accumulated some material from the summer season that I had originally wanted to do as short posts. Back in June (June...that was like months ago!!) I managed to get some collecting in at Sturgeon Bay Wilderness Area, which is S of Wilderness State Park on the NW shore of Michigan in Emmet County. It's a beautiful location, with small pools along the beach area. The pools are perennial, ringed with lots of small sedges and other aquatic plants, and are very fen-like. They also happen to be good habitats for species such as Amphiagrion saucium, the Eastern Red Damsel, and Nannothemis bella, the Elfin Skimmer. At some point, these ponds also attract Pantala species, as well as Sympetrum danae.

The last time I collected there, it was October 2010, and there were a few darners and many Sympetrum around. The odes were abundant back on June 25, and I saw a few things that merit mentioning here. I did catch several Somatochlora walshii, which I associate with fens. The specimens I captured were either feeding on the lee side of some pines or hanging from a branch. One pair was in copula. There were numerous Libellula quadrimaculata, and what was strange were the two emergences. While there were many very mature individuals with dull coloration, there was a slew of fresh, very colorful, recently-emerged adults that had the "praenubila" wing coloration variant.

Oh, and catching an Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis near the beach was gratifying, but strange. I also collected Libellula pulchella, Basiaeschna janata, and Gomphaeschna furcillata.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Nice Surprise at Hudson Mills

Gomphus fraternus.

On Saturday, Adrienne and I did some collecting at Hudson Mills Metropark, which lies N of Dexter, along the Huron River. There are some nice stretches of cobbles and gravelly substrates there, and it's a great place for lots of riverine Odes. It has been a few years since I collected there in June, and there werev lots of teneral Argia in the vegetation, as well as a few mature specimens of Argia apicalis. I collected a female Hetaerina americana from the small stream that feeds into the Huron River -- a perfect place for Calopteryx maculata, which is abundant there, with plenty of overhanging grasses for perches. In the river, there were lots of Enallagma exsulans flying in tandem and perched on pickerelweed.

I caught what I think is a female Gomphus exilis feeding on a teneral Argia. The damselfly was nearly as long as the gomphid. A while later, while standing in a wet meadow, I looked up and saw a large ode hurtling towards me and I quickly brought my net up and captured a Macromia illinoiensis. I thought that was the nice find of the day until I caught a male Gomphus fraternus that was perched on the top of a small maple overlooing the Huron. I was standing above him on the boardwalk that crosses under North Territorial Road. It was not until I looked at the MOS database that I realized that we had no records of the Midland Clubtail from the Huron River in Washtenaw Co. Previously, I had caught the species along the Raisin River at Sharon Mill.

Macromia illinoiensis

I know I preach a lot about going to a place repeatedly, and this goes to show that it pays off.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Libellulids Abound

Last evening, Adrienne and I checked out Pittsfield Preserve at the S edge of Ann Arbor from about 7- 8:30 pm. The fields adjacent to Marton Road are of course, being farmed, but there is a lot of field area near the woods that has been left to grow in, and that is where the trails follow. There are some small wooded and shrubby ponds to the N, and a small wet area at the N end of the field which presumably stays filled with water long enough to allow development of some species -- I found an exuvium of Anax junius there last year.
Last night was just a beautiful late afternoon, and we observed:
Celithemis elisa
Plathemis lydia
Libellula cyanea
Libellula luctuosa
Libellula pulchella
Leucorrhinia intacta
Anax junius

As the sun got lower in the sky, dozens of dragonflies were flying around in the grass and landing, presumably for the evening. Most of those were widow skimmers and 12-spots. Only one L. cyanea was seen, and I missed it with my swing of the net. Eventually, I will have a more complete list of the odes from the preserve.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Needle in a haystack...

I was helping my colleague Julie Craves hunt down some specimens from Wayne County in our collection today, and I figure that this could also be a "teachable moment" for people that are gung-ho on collection databases. All of the specimen information in the Michigan Odonata Survey database has been entered by me or people working for me. There should be very few errors in the MOS database at this point, and with nearly 27,000 records I certainly hope there are few errors! However, when we want to check a specimen, all of the recently collected material is in modern 3x5 clear envelopes, making searching in the collection fairly easy. The older specimens are not though, and the multitude of paper triangles with a variety of writing styles, information placement and hidden specimens, makes for a more difficult search. I finally found the triangle and specimen in question, and was able to resolve a question that she had (I think). In addition, I fixed several mis-identifications and corrected the database. For those that believe that all is perfect once a collection's information is available online,and the specimens matter less... I have news for you. The specimens are the ultimate corroborative evidence, and no matter how great the data is, you still need to check identifications and make sure that the data was entered correctly. I am fully aware that ID's that I made for some specimens in 1999 may not be as reliable as those made in 2009. So long as people are fallible and our understanding of the specific makeup of any species changes, we'll always have to go back and check things.