Monday, August 15, 2011

Lessons from the Odonata Files

Being new to something can lead to making a few mistakes. A lack of knowledge in a subject leads to dependence on those with more knowledge. And sometimes there is plain old being clueless to blame.

The Boyo and I have been learning a great many thing about the world of Odonates, or Dragonflies, as I've posted before. I've been working on my photography skills by shooting them for posterity when they cooperate. The Boyo has been spotting them, and pointing them out to me.

Such was the case in our garden at the end of July when we saw this pretty girl...

My initial reaction was that it was a Ruby Meadowhawk. Why? Because if you go to the Odonata Central website, they have really friendly lists of dragonflies and damselflies found in your specific county!  Our list had 18 species. The Boyo and I added the 19th, species last week, much to our excitement. Then I saw that most of the records in our county were from the DOT project done back in 2004, so I decided to add my recent finds to our list as well.

I submitted the Widow Skimmer...

The Halloween Pennant...

And the Ruby Meadowhawk.  Well, the Widow and the Halloween Pennant were both confirmed, but the Ruby was still pending a few days later. In the mean time, I had found the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project, and they have a facebook page, so I joined it to ask what they thought of my Ruby Meadowhawk. They have some wicked knowledgable folks there and they gently corrected my ID and said that I had recorded a Band-winged Meadowhawk instead. 

I looked up a picture of the Band-winged, compared it to mine and a picture of the Ruby, and sure enough there were little differences that I had missed, indeed making it a picture of a Band-winged Meadowhawk, and our SECOND county record!

Now, to be fair, it seems that getting county records is pretty common due to the lack of recording of odonates in most areas. But for the Boyo and I, having two of our four recorded odonates be county records is pretty exciting! He wants to keep hunting them and find a brand new species that we can name. I'll admit that sounds pretty cool to me, too. However unlikely.

My mistake was in comparing my photo to the known species list, and choosing the one that most closely resembled it. The lesson learned was to take my time in ID'ing my pictures, and keep an open mind as to what I have found. There are literally hundreds of varieties of dragonflies and damselflies, and they are kind of under studied. So my new goal is to keep on hunting with the kiddos, keep recording, keep learning, and keep an open mind.

I encourage you to get out there with your cameras and get some shots. You never know what you might find!

Special thanks to The folks at Odonata Central for their fantastic website, and the good people of MOSP for helping out a newbie like me!

More Later

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