Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dragonflying at Mount Shuksun

On October 17, 2011, Betsy and I went to Picture Lake near Mount Baker.  Picture Lake is just before you get to the Mount Baker ski area, and it provides an incredible reflected view of Mount Shuksun.  A little later in the season the fall colors would be more prominent, yielding an even more impressive view.

Betsy, with Picture Lake and Mount Shuksun in the background.  This picture was taken shortly after we arrived, when there was still a bit of fog near the summit of Shuksun.  The temperature at this point was a brisk 46 ˚F, but the sun and lack of a breeze made it feel quite comfortable.  It warmed up during the time we were there, and by lunchtime it was 64 ˚F.

This is me at Picture Lake a little while later after the fog had burned off.  When we first arrived we didn't see any dragonflies to whisper to, but shortly thereafter the activity was pretty good.

The greatest activity that day was provided by the Ringed Emeralds.  The first one we saw was this dead male found along the shoreline.  A darner helped us find it by stopping on his patrol of the shoreline to check it out more carefully – in case it might happen to be a female darner.  The Ringed Emerald has an iridescent green thorax, green eyes, and thin white rings at the base of each abdominal segment.

We saw a few darners at the lake.  All that we could see well were Paddle-tailed Darners – Mr. Happy Face.  

The Ringed Emeralds were plentiful as the air warmed up a few degrees.  You could see them everywhere along the shoreline: pairs flying in tandem; males chasing females and other males; females laying eggs with males hovering nearby for protection.  Here a female dips her abdomen into the water to deposit eggs (water temperature was 46 ˚F).  

The water was so clear that I spent some time looking to see if I could spot the eggs the female was laying.  With a little practice I could.  The eggs came out in a small mucus string of maybe 6 or 8 greenish eggs, a lot like miniature frog eggs.  Strings start out in a tight ball, but then twist and straighten out as they drift slowly to the bottom.

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