Thursday, August 16, 2012

Ionia County Trip

On August 4th, Four intrepid Odonuts met at Ionia State Recreation Area (ISRA) to try and increase the county list to something somewhat more respectable than the paltry 19 species that had been recorded in the MOS database. The backstory on that is on the Michigan Odonata Atlas page. Some counties are just plain under-collected, and Ionia County is one of those counties. Jeff and Quinn Sommer, Doug McWhirter and I met in the morning at Sessions Lake at ISRA and immediately began collecting county records!

ISRA is a multi-use area of about 4500 acres, with many bike trails, a beach and camping areas, and is bounded on the N by the Grand River. Sessions Lake feeds a small stream that eventually runs into the Grand River. It's a large enough area that we felt we ought to have some good opportunities to collect from a variety of habitats. We quickly netted several Libellulidae and Coenagrionidae that were new county records, and the shoreline of Sessions Lake was quite thick with Halloween Pennants (Celithemis eponina), Eastern Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis), Widow skimmers (Libellula luctuosa), and the Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata). Only L. luctuosa and C. eponina were not new records. A lot of damselflies were recently-emerged tenerals, and many of those were Enallgma basidens, the Double-striped bluet -- another new record. A gomphid was buzzing past us near some rocky areas, and Jeff finally snagged it -- a Black-shouldered spinyleg, Dromogomphus spinosus -- and not a new record! I was able to net an Epitheca princeps (Prince Baskettail) on a most lucky swing. I also found some exuviae of the species on a concrete barrier. That was a new county record, and the first corduliid recorded for Ionia. I am sure some May/June collecting would turn up a slew of new records.


Sessions Lake

After collecting until after noon, we headed over to the N of ISRA that borders the Grand River. It was pretty hot and sunny, so it was good to get to the picnic shelter off Riverside Drive and have some lunch before we headed down to the river. It has been quite dry this summer, and the Grand River was obviously lower than usual, as we could see the exposed banks. There wasn't too much flying there, except for Calopteryx maculata (Ebony Jewelwing) and Argia apicalis (Blue-fronted Dancer). Of course, there were some dragonflies flying on the OTHER side of the river!


The Grand River

As we walked back up the trail to the parking lot, we scared up a feeding River Cruiser, which none of us could collect. It was feeding along a powerline cut, which is always a great place to check. Doug suggested that we take a look at the stream, which looked like it might be productive earlier in the season. There were lots of riffles and cobbles, and the stream was cool...though not as cold as I would have liked on that hot day.

We saw Ebony Jewelwings along the creek, and Jeff missed netting a Fawn Darner (Boyeria vinosa), which would have been yet another county record! Otherwise, there was not much else at that time of the day.

Doug had to head back home, but Jeff, Quinn, and I decided to try our luck at the Portland State Game Area (PSGA), a few miles to the SE. The PGSA follows the Grand River, and is discontinuous, surrounded by farmland. However, the rich woods we saw looked pretty nice, and I wish i had realized that there were multiple entrances to the section we visited. We parked at a gate that was closed, but since the road was washed out in some places, perhaps it is just as well that we didn't try driving it. We kept scaring up Macromias in the field edges, and Jeff finally caught one just before we left for the day -- it was a Macromia illinoiensis, which wasn't a new record. By the way, I should mention that Jeff and his son Quinn make a good team. I was greatly impressed by Quinn's knowledge and his demeanor.

I did catch a new record in the path to the river -- a Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus) - such a monstrous dragonfly with such a small head!

Those always impress me, and believe me, it was a lucky swing. Once we were at the Grand River, we saw a lot more activity than we had downstream earlier. Quinn immediately caught a Hetaerina americana (American Rubyspot), which were fairly numerous along the vegetated banks. The river had cobbles and much more flow to it than where we had been earlier. Common Green darners (Anax junius) were constantly cruising around, and I am sure there had to be some Stylurus, but I did not see any. It was getting towards 5 pm so we headed back to our vehicles. The only downside to the PSGA is that people can access it with ORVs, and two idiots sped by us on the dirt road several times, speeding up and letting the gravel fly as they approached. However, the riverside was quite relaxing and promising insofar as a place to look for gomphids next June.

I had a good day with Doug, Jeff, and Quinn, and we did pretty well for the first week of August. One thing of note, we did not see a single Sympetrum during the day, nor did we see any Lestes!

New Ionia County records on 08/04/2012:
Calopterygidae - Hetaerina americana
Coenagrionidae - Argia apicalis, Argia tibialis, Enallagma basidens, E. carunculatum, E. civile.
Aeshnidae - Boyeria vinosa - (no voucher)
Gomphidae - Hagenius brevistylus
Corduliidae - Epitheca princeps
Libellulidae - Celithemis elisa, Erythemis simplicicollis, Libellula pulchella, Pachydiplax longipennis, Perithemis tenera, Tramea lacerata.

That's fifteen new county records for one day in August. Add to that the species that we saw/collected that day that were not new records (8 species) for a total of 23 species for the day. That's not too shabby for August!

Now, if only we could do this every week.

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