End of season

It looks like the last of the odes in our area have gone for another year and so it is time to wrap up the blog too. The year was a fractured one with the early season flight being adversely affected by the weather but mid and late season odes went some way towards making up for it. My personal year saw me adding species to my patch site list, St-Lazare sand pits and I was also able to visit a few new localities in search of their specialities. Luck also played a major part in my year but, to some extent you make your own luck by just being out there.

Although adding new species to your repertoire of experience it is always pleasing, to see the establishment of species that were new the previous year is very gratifying. I was therefore delighted when both Halloween Pennant Celithemis emponina (Célithème géante) and Eastern Amberwing Perithemis tenera (Périthème délicate) reappeared at the sand pits in 2013. Both had strong seasons and their continued presence suggests that they will remain until the site is ultimately destroyed as per its current end use. To a lesser extent the continued presence of River Bluet Enallagma anna (l’agrion à longs cerques) but in a different section of the site from last year suggests that it was previously under recorded and perhaps not a new colonist. Its continued presence at the new site is less affected by the main works and its future lies with the city of St-Lazare and whether they can find some enthusiasm for creating an odonata reserve on their land as I have suggested.

Below are photos of all three species taken at the site.

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The addition of a species to any site list always gives you a buzz but when those species are not even considered as possible candidates, it is especially pleasing. Two site additions in one day is also remarkable, especially as they were within 40m of each other. The first I mistook for a female type Eastern Forktail Ischnura verticalis (Agrion vertical) on first glance but something about it made me look twice and I was astonished to see a tiny skimmer, an Elfin Skimmer Nannothemis bella (Nannothème d’elfe) to be exact. After a bit of a wander it finally settled down and I managed a few photos of it for posterity, see below. A little further on I searched an area of sphagnum half in the hope of finding a Sphagnum Sprite Nehalennia gracilis (Déesse gracieuse) and so when a tiny damsel type flushed I knew straight away I’d found one. I didn’t get anything other than a record shot of it and I didn’t find an example of either species on subsequent visits but that doesn’t mean I won’t if I look earlier next season.

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Like most wildlife people, birders, lepidopterists or odeists I have a mental list of likely species I might add to my lists. As a dedicated patch watcher that list is narrowed considerably for odes by virtue of their relative sedentary nature and the habitat available. There are however some species that do wander and it only takes one gravid (carrying fertilised eggs) female to pitch down unseen and deposit her load in a likely looking spot. That is almost certainly what had happened before I found seven newly emerged Variegated Meadowhawks Sympetrum corruptum (Sympétrum bagarreur) in the rough margins of the main works pit. Variegated Meadowhawk was never on that mental list of species but having now found them on my patch, that mental list has had its parameters somewhat broadened. Below a shot of one of the c17 individuals that emerged over a 12 day period. If any of the progeny survived and the gender split was in our favour then we could see a colony of Variegated Meadowhawks at the sand pits and in fact anywhere else within the area that provides a suitable habitat.

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When I started the blog I had hoped to encourage an interest in odes locally and to have an exchange of information so that odeists could enjoy more species and adding them to their personal tallies. I have noticed an upturn in interest and the blog has occasionally had in excess of 50 hits per day. Such is the burgeoning interest that some odeists (such as me) are more than willing to travel to see something new.  North of the Ottawa River there are many great places for odes and, after having been given a site for a wanted ode by Richard Yank, Sandra and I visited and had great views of Eastern Least Clubtail Stylogomphus albistylus (Gomphe à stykes blancs) along with other species typical of the habitat.

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Sometimes you just fluke something. One evening I was out in the back yard when a clubtail landed up in one of the trees. It was a late season ode and my suspected ID was confirmed when I climbed out on our roof and photographed an Elusive Clubtail Stylurus notatus (Gomphe marqué). Comments on the Northeastern odonata Facebook page suggested that the species is aptly named and hardly ever photographed in the wild unless caught and posed. A few days later I flushed what I thought might be the same species (or even same individual) nearby on Bordelais Bog. Thinking my chance had gone, a speculative visit the next day saw a repeat of the clubtail being found only this time it was down.  I eventually caught it (netting is not my strong point) and photographed it, released it and so concluded the Elusive Clubtail experience.

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Serendipity plays a large part in some events and so it was when we had guests from the UK and took them to Parc Omega, north of Montebello, QC. On a routine walk along one of the trails one of the guests asked what the perched ode was. I snapped first and asked questions later and it turned out to be an Arrow Clubtail Stylurus spiniceps (Gomphe fléché). Snapping first paid dividends because other trail walkers flushed the insect and it left, never to be seen again.

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Odeing is a learning experience and, no matter how often you pore over the available literature you miss things. On a visit to St-Lazare sand pits with Richard Yank we (he!) trapped a bluet type and it turned out to be an immature male Orange Bluet Enallagma signatum (Agrion orangé) and it was blue. Seeing this first-hand taught me to look out for it and, in the days after the capture, I found quite a few more. Not rare but instructive.

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Darners are big and showy and should be more obvious when it comes to identification but the mosaic group are not obvious often enough. Green-striped Darner Aeshna verticalis (Aeschne verticale) falls into the tricky category but informative plates published on the aforementioned Facebook pages and an improved net technique show Green-striped Darner to be a bit commoner than the historical records suggest. Whether that is because of a change of fortunes in terms of climate or habitat or whether the identification issues had slowed a realisation of their status who knows. I think I saw more Green-striped Darners this year than in all the previous years added together.

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Most of my views of Swift River Cruiser Macromia illinoiensis (Macromie noire) had been of insects patrolling out in the river although my first I subdued with my windshield accidentally and so it was appreciated in-hand if a little crooked. On a visit to Baie Brazeau Richard netted one that was pretending to be an emerald on the main ride and we got to have a good look at it before allowing it to go about its business.

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So that was my year, I hope everyone enjoyed their odeing as much as I did. See you all next May!

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About mdinns15

I'm a birder, I also look at odes and leps, busy guy.
This entry was posted in Libellules, Odonata, Odonates du Quebec, Quebec Dragonflies. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to End of season

  1. Caroline Piché says:

    Great observations! Thank you for sharing. I have a question with respect to Ruby meadowhawks: i had a close look to meadowhawks in Gatineau and could not find any Ruby. Can you tell me more about the habitat and how i could spot them amongst other similar looking meadowhawks? Thank you.

    • notdennis51 says:

      Hi Caroline – I found most of what I identified as Ruby in a boggy area called Bordelais Bog in St-Lazare although I did find a couple at the pits. To ID them I used the amber wing bases as a starting point in the field and then the hamules in the hand. I include Ruby Meadowhawk on the grounds that the hamules of those caught and photographed match the illustrations available although they are rather variable. I can only suggest catching every male meadowhawk with amber wing bases and starting from there. North of the Ottawa River there is a subtle habitat change to my area and perhaps that is also part of the reason you are not finding Ruby Meadowhawk. I’m hoping Ed Lam follows up Richard Yank’s request for clarification some time, we could all do with definitive information regarding the meadowhawks. PS – love your blog, you are doing great work, very impressive.

  2. Gillian says:

    I’m sad the season has ended too. I haven’t seen an Autumn Meadowhawk in Ottawa in a month now. However, I just bought a new hand lens fairly recently and I’m looking forward to getting to know the bluets next spring.

  3. Linda says:

    Lovely series of photos. Greetings from Montreal.

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