I'd only seen this species in ones and twos, and always on trips to the north, so I was pleased to find a good population relatively close to home at Kinnickinnic State Park. They aren't brightly colored, but their brown is very rich and their white stripes are snazzy. I especially like how the white stripe on the thorax is outlined in black to make it stand out more.
I still think of Sympetrum vicinum as the Yellow-Legged Meadowhawk, because that's what it was called in the first dragonfly field guide I ever owned. In 2004 the Common Names Committee of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas decided the old name was too confusing, because as vicinum matures it changes from yellow to red, and the legs become reddish brown. The whole idea of having a committee that establishes official common names seems bizarre to me, but since most of these names were made up by the DSA in the first place and are no older than 1978 -- and since the old name really is kind of confusing -- I go along with it when I remember.
The new name reflects the fact that Sympetrum vicinum is an unusually cold-tolerant species. In Minnesota, if we don't get a hard frost, they can still be flying in November. It's very possible to see them perching near autumn leaves. But by the time the leaves have changed colors, so has the Autumn Meadowhawk -- it should be red, not bright yellow. Actually I took these photos in July and the leaves in the background are just dying.
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I saw my first non-migrant dragonflies of the year on May 10th at Murphy-Hanrehan Park Reserve. This is early, though not quite as early as the warm spring had led me to hope. Emergence may only be a week or so ahead of schedule.
I only saw one of these Spiny Baskettails, but luckily he perched long enough for me to get this photo.
Last June I decided to try driving along the St. Croix River on the Wisconsin side, stopping at boat landings to see if I could find any new species of clubtail. By the time I got to the Pansy Landing, up past Danbury, it was already shaded out and nobody was flying. But on the road leading there I'd noticed dozens of baskettails filling the sky, and then on the way back I started to see little flashes of yellow and red in the bushes, so I had to stop. For no reason I can figure out, this stretch of road is an incredibly good site for Calico Pennants -- everywhere you look, there's one.
It's also the best site I've ever found for Dermacentor variabilis, the American Dog Tick. This year on our way back from Duluth, Pamela and I stopped just for a few minutes to see if the pennants were still there this year -- they were -- and during that brief glance around, we took on more than a dozen ticks, some of which had apparently boarded the parked car during the few moments the doors were open. Luckily dog ticks are hapless and take forever to decide where they are going to bite you, so usually it's just a matter of being crawled around on, not actually consumed. It's worth it because there are no trees on the west side of road, so the sun and the dragonflies both stay out late, making it possible to take photos like this:( Five more photos )
pameladean and I saw this dragonfly last week at St. Croix State Park. There's a narrow dirt road on the east side of the park that runs down through a wetland where Small Purple Fringed Orchids bloom. The orchids used to grow right by the road so you could photograph them easily, but lately there always seems to be standing water on both sides of the road, and the orchids grow further back. I don't want to trample up their habitat, and I don't trust the mud under that water to bear my weight anyway, so I don't try to get close. We got out of the car anyway because I wanted to photograph a White-Faced Meadowhawk sitting on a dead plant stem over the water -- I didn't have a good photo of that species for the county. A little further down the road was this big blue-white dragonfly, which I thought at the time was a Pondhawk, though I did notice that it was awfully large. I took a few photos while Pamela looked at the orchids, and then -- since the road at that point is a single lane and there's no way to pass a car parked on it -- we moved on, and promptly saw a Scarlet Tanager, which seemed much more interesting than a Pondhawk.
When I got home and looked at the photos, it finally dawned on me that the blue dragonfly wasn't a Pondhawk at all. It was a Great Blue Skimmer, and my excuse for not knowing what one looks like is that they don't occur in Minnesota. At least, no one knew they did until now. This is the current range map for the species from odonatacentral.org:
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I took this photo last July, near a bridge over the Kettle River in Banning State Park. There were lots of dragonflies, but I wasn't having much luck sneaking up on them, so I decided to stake out a pretty rock and hope a dragonfly would land on it. I didn't have to wait long at all before a Dot-Tailed Whiteface showed up; he even came back several times to perch at different angles.
Dusky Clubtails are brown-and-yellow dragonflies about two inches long. They look virtually identical to Ashy Clubtails, so for a positive identification, you need close-up photos showing the shape of small details, like a downward-pointing spike on the claspers at the end of the male's abdomen:
I was using the camera's LCD to zoom in on the claspers, so I never even saw this tiny white insect. It must have landed there for a moment and then flown away again.
Here's what the whole dragonfly looks like:
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