Winding Down

September already and the ode season is winding down somewhat. For me it is bird migration time, but also ode migration time and so the net stays in the car a bit longer in the hope of encountering a darner swarm. Generally all I’m seeing around Cape Sable Island now are meadowhawk species (Ruby/Cherry-faced), with a few Green Darners passing through. Recently I was on Sandy Cove Road near Halifax and there were lots of darners working the roadsides, unfortunately they all seemed to be one species, Shadow Darner.

It was pretty gloomy, fog had held all day and it was warm and muggy. The darners were systematically working a route, a beat, and so I placed myself in the way and kept swishing the net until I got one. Here is the in-hand shot showing the thoracic stripes, Shadow Darner is one of the easier ones to identify. I thoughts I’d also throw up an old plate I made with darner sides, I have a better one but can’t remember where I got it so, for now, you’ll have to make do with my home-made version.

p1090239 darner-plate

I don’t expect there to be too many more posts here this year, next year I plan to focus on a few species I have yet to see and to keep searching the local area (around CSI and the Tri-Counties) blogging what I find.

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Local Emeralds

I’ve been meaning to investigate a local spot for odes, a place that I bird regularly. Today I did and this time I was armed with my net, normally a cumbersome appendage that I miss dragonflies with, today (8/23/16) I was more successful. The trail is on Cape Sable Island, Shelburne Co, and is known as the Cripple Creek Beach Trail. Essentially it is just a rough path to Clam Point beach from Cripple Creek Wharf. It has a barachois pool and several tidal pools. Previous visits had seen me frustrated by inexhaustible darners, today I was earlier in the day and lucked in with a couple of emeralds and photographed a darner.

Emeralds can be tricky to identify, mainly because we have no illustrated guide along the Peterson line, instead we have mainly a collection of photographic guides which often fail to quite capture the insect you are looking at. Luckily the emeralds I found today have diagnostic appendages, although, even then you have to double-check everything.

The first insect I caught was a male Incurvate Emerald. It hung on a trail side branch long enough to photograph, then a swish had it in the net and being photographed in the hand. This is the first male I’ve ever seen following a recent female over our house (nearby), see previous posts for details.

Incurvate Emerald male 3 Incurvate Emerald male (2) A little further on this darner clung to a branch and was far enough away not to flush. Seeing the side of the thorax is the key to most darner identification. The thoracic stripes are pretty clear here and make the identification of Shadow Darner easy.

 Shadow Darner m (4) Shadow Darner m (5)

In another area of the trail I was trying to catch Seaside Dragonlets, several of which were around ATV (All Terrain Vehicles or awful toerag vandals, your choice) damaged saltmarsh. I did get a female (here) but then got distracted by a hawking emerald sp.

 Seaside Dragonlet female

This female Clamp-tipped Emerald made several passes before landing where I could creep up on it. I again got photos before swinging the net, my net-work is less than stellar but getting better. The abdomen tip is diagnostic here.

Clamp-tipped Emerald female 2 (1) Clamp-tipped Emerald female (2) Clamp-tipped Emerald female (1) 

I’d only encountered one Clamp-tipped Emerald anywhere before this one, so it was especially pleasing to see, photograph and net it.

Other species recorded on the ramble were: White-faced Meadowhawk; Green Darner; Wandering Glider; Spot-winged Glider; Twelve-spotted Skimmer; Ruby/Cherry-faced Meadowhawk and a bluet sp, probably Familiar.

 

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Drought

Today 8/10/16, I had a short wander along the Clyde River Road, Shelburne Co, hoping to find a few darners. The habitat should hold some of the species I have yet to find, Mottled, Subarctic and Zigzag, unfortunately I didn’t see a single darner along the whole 16km route. Not surprisingly most of the water on the bogs had gone as the drought continues in southern Nova Scotia. The Clyde River itself is something of a disappointment. It should hold a broad range of species but the water quality seems poor, likely the result of unpleasant things being discharged into it.

I did put up the odd ode off the graveled section of the road but they rarely returned for a view. At the same spot I reported as having Brush-tipped Emerald on a previous visit, I found three vying for hunting rights over a drying sphagnum bed. It was up around 28°C and they weren’t going to land so the shots had to be in flight. Fortunately they do pause for a split second at times. The flight shots, while no pin-sharp due to manual focus, depict the species well, with the curved abdomen and brush-like appendages obvious at times.

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This White-faced Meadowhawk was the only one I found.

IMG_6068 Where a few weeks ago dancers were abundant, I only saw this single Variable Dancer this time.

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Does anyone know whether Cherry-faced or Ruby Whiteface is the predominant species in southern NS? I’m seeing the odd one which I think are Cherry-faced but I have yet to catch and examine one.

 

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Black Saddlebags

As we lack a ready reference regarding the distribution and status of the odes found in Nova Scotia, leafing through Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East is the order of the day. The east is a big area and so it is only natural that the range maps will be a bit vague. It shows Black Saddlebags as a vagrant in NS by virtue of a couple of dots, one of them is probably on Sable Island by the look of it.

On 25th August 2015 I was birding on Stoney Island Beach Road, an area of Cape Sable Island, Shelburne County, when I noticed a medium/large ode flash past. It then hawked the road for ten minutes or so, never landing and never getting too close which meant I had to resort to plan B (or ode desperandum) which is manual focus in flight shooting. I got the following image which was enough to confirm the ID as Black Saddlebags.

IMG_1444 (2)_edited-1

On July 25th 2016 I had another Black Saddlebags on CSI, this time on The Hawk and again in flight only and not offering any photo ops this time. Black Saddlebags, along with Carolina Saddlebags are the only two of their type that we might expect in NS. To give you a better idea of what a Black Saddlebags looks like here are some on my archive shots from when I had a small and reliable colony at my old ode site, St-Lazare sand pits.

Bkksd5 Blk sdb1 IMG_2026

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Rusty Snaketail

For some seasons I’ve been looking for Rusty Snaketail, a species of moving water and with a propensity to lounge mid-stream on rocks. It is generally regarded as the commonest and most widespread snaketail and yet I’d seen Boreal and Maine with ease in Quebec, never a rusty. Today 8/5 I had packed a lunch to be consumed after I’d picked Sandra up in Halifax, we intended to find a nice spot to eat lunch and see what was there. By chance we chose a small park on the West LeHave river in Lunenburg County.

Taking route 10 inland, we drove for a few kilometers before stopping at the linear park with a small parking lot called Cooksville Regional Park. Not really expecting much, I checked out the sluggish river behind the picnic tables, drought is affecting everywhere, and there, in the middle, was my first Rusty Snaketail. As is the order of things, it came no nearer than the middle but it did wander about a bit so I saw it fly too. I also managed a few shots using a 1.4x on a 100-400mm lens, not terrible but room for improvement.

 IMG_5868

The same spot had numerous Powdered Dancers, most looked normal but there were also a few blue ones, plus a few Variable Dancers.

IMG_5843 IMG_5840 

In addition to the aforementioned odes we also saw Dragonhunter, Calico Pennant and 12-Spotted Skimmer. The West LeHave River is home to the Extra-striped Snaketail, a mythical insect in many ways and a good reason to go searching the river where you can access it.

 

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Salty Ode

Suddenly we have lots of Seaside Dragonlets on the wing and where I live they are particularly abundant. They are one of the easier to identify odes especially the males that look black at distance but are much more intricate close up. They are particularly reactive so hard to approach, also they don’t tend to perch nicely in the open, preferring to keep at least one blade of grass across a part of their wing or body. They are wholly reliant on a saline environment, breeding in shallow pools that regularly enjoy tide inundation. They are pretty widespread being found all along the length of the eastern seaboard of North America.

IMG_4802 IMG_4815_edited-1 IMG_4824 IMG_4832_edited-1 IMG_4852

 

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Two more for NS

While twitching a Ruff (and adding Black Terns to my NS bird list) in Cumberland County 7/22/16 I managed to look at a few odes before the wind drove the insects down. It was a bit irritating as, earlier in the day one road had quite a few odes swirling around but they had all but gone for shelter when we went back. The area we were in, basically the marshes around Amherst on the border with New Brunswick, are probably excellent for odes in better conditions, still two more species were added to my Nova Scotia list, Northern Spreadwing and Belted Whiteface.

The male Belted Whiteface is quite easy to identify, Frosted Whiteface being the main confusion species. The females are trickier although, with practice, the different sizes and structures help although Dot-faced Whiteface females also enter the equation and male dot-tails were abundant at Amherst so females will be too.

Here is the Belted Whiteface:

 IMG_3243_edited-1

The Northern Spreadwings were all immature or females, here is a diagnostic view of the important bit for ID. Taken with a bridge camera set to macro.

 P1090226

Below is an adult Northern Spreadwing from elsewhere.

IMG_1421

 

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