Sunday, May 27, 2012

My First Pro Dragonfly Hunt

What a day!  Did you ever have one of those days where you were learning so much so fast that your brain nearly melted?   That you had so much fun, even though you were soaked to the skin from the thunderstorms dumping water on you, that at one point you actually stopped mid calf in mucky water to say "Man, I wish I could get paid to do this!".Ya. It was that kind of day.

I went on my first Ode Hunt with people that knew way more about odes than me. I added six new to me species to my personal list, and increased my 'Odoknwoledge' by about 150%.  Lots and lots of pictures, so let's dive right in, shall we?

I met other members of MOSP (that's the Minnesota Odonata Survey Project) up at a place near the Twin Cities for a day of hunting the Spatterdock Darner. It was a chance to finally meet people I had only met through the facebook page.  After some introductions, a Lilypad Clubtail was brought in for show and tell.

See the club like tail there?

I, of course, was so eager to get pictures, I fired away on the wrong settings, so didn't get any great shots of it. But it was the first 'New To Me' species I saw that day.

We drove in a caravan out to our first survey site, and while we were gathering to go in, I swiped a damselfly out of the air that had been flying above us.  It turned out to be a Sedge Sprite...

I hadn't set the camera yet, so just a blurry shot.  They are minuscule, and iridescent green.  Very cool little damsels. And my second 'New To Me' find.  Turns out the were also very much in season, but I'll get to that in a minute.

We hiked around the pond, keeping eyes peeled for whatever we could find. It took no time at all to net my third 'New To Me' find. This one is a Boreal Bluet...

Bluets are a bit tricky, because for most of them the only way you can tell what they are is to look at the tip of the abdomen (tail) and see how it is shaped.

In case you had not noticed, they are pretty tiny. Just a little over an inch long. So just a glance with the naked eye can be tough.  Lots of the others had loups, or little magnifying glasses, so they could see more clearly.  I did a whole lot of squinting.  But I know what I want for my birthday now!

All the better to see you with my dear!

A couple dozen yards later, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye and investigated. Enter number four on my 'New To Me' list. 

This one was really cool, because it had just extruded itself from it's shell, or exuviae. So I got a glimpse of what it had looked like as a nymph, right next to the newly emerged Odonate.

Oh, It's called a Racket-Tailed Emerald, just so you know.

After a bit more walking the rain started to pick up, and the lightning started getting more frequent. So we packed up and headed back to the Nature Center to wait out the storm cell, hoping for a break in the weather.  We had an impromptu class on the area, during which my brain overloaded. But it was interesting to learn the geology of the area.

When we got a break in the storms, we headed to a second lake to see what we could find.  As I was walking down to the lake, I saw this little gal hanging out in the grass. A female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.

Newly emerged, chilly and wet from the storm, I picked her up to get some close up shots (and because holding a dragonfly is pretty dang awesome!)
 One of my first dragonfly pictures was a long distance shot of a male Twelve-Spotted Skimmer at our house, so technically not new to me.  But my first time being this up close and personal with one.  She was stunning.

I also got a shot of her with a Tanka Bar!

Those things saved the day.  I had a few stashed in my pocket.  Turns out we didn't stop for lunch, and I was a little worried about getting there on time in the morning, so I had a Tanka bar for breakfast on the drive up, another for a pre-lunch snack, another for lunch, and another later in the day when we were wrapping things up. A while back I had told someone that I could eat Tanka Bars all day.  Today I did! And it was gooood! Remarkably I was not hungry in the least, even with all of the tromping through marshlands and ponds and mud.  They must pack a ton of energy in those suckers, because they really kept me going.

As we explored the banks of this lake, one of the ode hunters found a Twelve-Spotted female just emerged.

That was really neat.  See how the wings are shiny? That's a good indicator that a dragonfly is brand new, called a teneral. They are also as soft as butter at this stage, so best handled extremely carefully or not at all. (Another good indicator that she's new? The exuviae hanging from her legs.)

The same gal that found the ode in the above picture also found a very newly emerged Four-Spotted Skimmer, fresh out of the exuviae and glistening with the recent rain.

As I moved aside some grass to get a clearer shot, it spread it's wings out and gave me this one.

Simply beautiful.

The Four-Spotted was number five on my 'New To Me' list.  What an incredible day!

We moved up to another nearby lake and continued searching.

 It was here that I was overwhelmed with the number of Boreal Bluets and Sedge Sprites.

At one point I took ONE swipe over some grasses and ended up with a baseball sized writhing mass of damselflies.  I would have taken a picture, but they were flapping around and looked quite uncomfortable.  So I upended the net and watched a waterfall of odes pour out and disperse like smoke to the four winds.  It was pretty excellent.

I also could barely take a step without seeing the sixth member of my 'NTM' list for the day.  The Dot-Tailed Whiteface.

There were so many that it was hard to choose which of the sixty pictures to put in the blog!

I learned that when they emerge, they look like this.

And as they mature they gradually turn black and the coloring on the tail fades, except for that one dot.

Here's a little fuzzy picture of a very young one and a moderately young one hanging out on my arm.

And yes, it was totally cool.

The young one flew away shortly after, but the older one perched on my finger for a minute and looked at me like it wanted to say something.  Perhaps it did. Because after a little head wiggling to look at me, it settled down in this position.

And just hung there, all content like.  After another minute I felt the need to keep hunting, so I thanked him for hanging out with me on this rainy day, wished him a long and happy summer full of mating and eating, and prepared to set him in some tall grass. Instead, he turned and looked at me again, and flew off into the shrubs.  Quite a moment, I've got to say.

Something else was found in the water, too.  It's called a water scorpion.

I'm guessing it was not named that because of its ability to lick you like a kitten.  So I stayed away from the bitey end, got a quick pic, and it was back to the depths with it. Creepy.

I also found this brand new Twelve-Spotted female hanging out right next to her exuviae.
The exuviae is the little cricket looking thing hanging out in the upper left of the photo. It is amazing how something so very creepy looking one day breaks through its shell, emerges, and becomes this beautiful creature of the air. Nothing short of miraculous.

We headed for a third lake, but after a short hike out to it - just as we arrived- the heavens opened up again and really dumped good on us.  The lightning intensified, too.  But I think the kicker for deciding to head back was when the storm sirens went off.  I was already pretty well soaked from the thighs down from traipsing through the other three lakes, but this deluge left me feeling like I had gone for a swim.

It was comin' down, I tell ya'.

Soon after we arrived back at the shelter, hail started dropping.

Since the day was getting a little late, the decision was made to call it a day.  Some people left from there, some went back to the nature center for their cars.  I changed into some dry clothes. And although I felt like a kid again, or at least a Marine again, sloshing through the woods in the rain, it was pretty nice to wear dry clothes for the trip home.  We never did find the Spatterdock Darner.  But I'm pretty sure a good time was had by all anyway.

Thanks to all of the great folks from MOSP who made this day so very fun and educational. And to Tanka Bars for keeping me going.  I had a really great time and I'm looking forward to my next outing with the MOSP Dragon Hunters!

More Later

1 comment:

Grammy said...

What an adventure! Iam so glad you have found this group to expand your love and knowledge of the dragonflies.