Sunday, May 03, 2015

A New Season Starts

May is my favorite month for a lot of reasons.

  • The myriad shades of green
  • The birds arriving, singing, and nesting
  • The amazing beauty of flowering plants
  • The promise of a summer yet to be had
  • The students have mostly left campus
  • The start of the dragonfly season

While I did see the arrivals of Green Darners (Anax junius) a few weeks ago, that's not the same as our home-grown odes emerging from the cold marshes and ponds, which usually starts around the 1st of May. For a long time, I have maintained that the best time to start looking for boghaunters (Williamsonia) is when the Amelanchier trees are in bloom.  Ready to test that hypothesis, Darrin O'Brien and I headed out to the bog at Rose Lake Wildlife Research Area yesterday (May 2) to see if the ringed boghaunters had started to emerge. It was a gorgeous day, with a high of 23°C, few clouds, and a faint breeze. Yes, the shadbush trees were in full bloom, and the spring azure butterflies (Celastrina ladon) were quite abundant.  We walked the trail from the small parking lot that follows the footbridge over Vermilion Creek to the trail that rings the bog. The first ode of the day, and one that we kept seeing was Epitheca canis, and all of the ones that I saw were males, and still teneral, so were maybe 24 hours emerged.
male Epitheca canis
The area we visited is at the edge of Clinton County, MI.  I collected a voucher of the baskettails, and we walked slowly around the area that borders the bog.  There were lots of bees visiting the blueberry flowers, and other flying insects, but no boghaunters. Or were there?  These small corduliids typically fly low to the ground, and vanish into the leaves when they land. A lone green darner was flying across an open area to the W of the bog. Darrin spotted several very, very teneral whitefaces - Leucorrhinia intacta and did not collect them, as they were too soft.    More baskettails.  At the point where the northenmost part of the trail goes around the bog, we ran into David Marvin, the photographer that alerted me to the boghaunters there last year!  It's not often that I can see someone on a trail and ask if that person is looking for boghaunters! David is a very dedicated nature photographer, and it was nice to meet him in person. He had spotted  a couple on the E side of the bog but was unable to get a photo. A little while later, Darrin saw one, and it flew up and landed on a tree trunk, but he was unable to net it. We then walked around the area where I had seen quite a few last year, and I only saw baskettails. About 20 minutes later, Darrin shouted that he had one!  It was atypically about head height on a tree trunk.  He had to almost poke it with his net so he could nab it.  The male specimen had probably emerged less than 24 hours before. He saw another one a bit later and then lost sight of it as it flew up through branches.  By that time, it was after 5 pm, and we had accomplished our objective. Darrin got his first ever Williamsonia lintneri , and my record was intact.

The earliest date for Williamsonia lintneri is April 30 (2010) in Mecosta Co., and May 2 is the date that specimens were collected in Kent Co. (2002) by Greg Swanson.  At this point it is safe to say that the first week of May in the Lower Peninsula is the time to look for Ringed Boghaunters.  The earliest date for Williamsonia fletcheri is May 6 in the Lower Peninsula (Mecosta Co.).  In the UP, late May to mid-June is the flight period for either species.

The perching on tree trunks at head height and above is something that we did not expect. Perhaps it was due to the afternoon sun, or to the time of adult emergence.  It goes to show that there is always something to be found that is new and unexpected, and that its good to have our preconceived notions challenged.

EDIT, MAY 4TH:  For some reason, I was putting the actual location of the bog and boghaunters as being in Clinton Co., a mistake I made last year.  The topo map and satellite view clearly shows that the trail around the bog is within Shiawassee County.  I have updated the MOS database to reflect that change.   Thanks, Darrin, for pointing out the error of my ways! :D


David Marvin said...

I do not think my first comment "took", so I'll try again! It was good to finally meet you yesterday. I see that Darrin finally caught a Boghaunter later. I did not photograph one until today when I returned:

Keep me posted if you will be in the area again or if you would like me to show you around Riverbend Natural Area where the Clubtails congregate.

Mark O'Brien said...

Great that you were out again the next day! Yes, we'll have to convene for a Riverbend visit!