Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Field Trip, Cranberry Lake, Friday & Saturday October 5 & 6, noon to 2:00 pm both days

Did you think dragonfly season was over?  Well, not so fast.  They're still out and about, bringing enjoyment and delight to those who look for them.

In fact, this is the prime time to see Happy-face Darners and to observe splash-dunk/spin-dry behavior.  And the prime location for both of these activities – dragonfly central, if you will – is Cranberry Lake in little old Anacortes.

To take advantage of this opportunity, Betsy and I are offering a field trip this Friday and Saturday (October 5 & 6) at Cranberry Lake.  The way it will work is as follows:

Betsy and I will be at Cranberry Lake, adjacent to the parking lot, from noon to 2:00 pm on Friday and Saturday.  If you would like to join us and our dragonfly friends, just drop by any time during those hours – we'll be in the same location the entire time.  Feel free to arrive and depart whenever you like.

We'll be looking for perching dragonflies (often 3 – 5 will be perched at a time), and thus binoculars, cameras, and spotting scopes will be most advantageous.  We'll also be scanning the lake for splash-dunk events and the spin-dry that follows.  Lately, we've been seeing one event roughly every 5 to 6 minutes, though it varies from day to day.  A few days ago we saw a record of 8 splash-dunks in a row, followed by a nice spin-dry with water droplets flying off in all directions.

To get to Cranberry Lake (in Anacortes), head toward the San Juan ferry terminal.  About halfway between downtown Anacortes and the terminal turn onto Georgia Street.  A couple blocks up the hill you'll see a gravel road on the right.  That road takes you directly to the parking area.  Here's a map:

What dragonflies are flying this time of year?  The most numerous are Paddle-tailed Darners (Happy-face), but we're also seeing Shadow Darners and Variable Darners.  In addition, Autumn Meadowhawks are showing up in increasing numbers.  Here's a link to a haiku about the Autumn Meadowhawk:

Below are photos of the dragonflies mentioned above, along with captions pointing out the field marks that are useful for identification.

A male Autumn Meadowhawk.  Notice the prominent hamules at the base of the abdomen.  This individual still has traces of yellow because it is just past its teneral stage where it was all yellow.  When fully mature it will be almost solid red, with virtually no distinguishing stripes or spots.
A female Autumn Meadowhawk.  The female is a brownish red, not as bright as the male.  Notice her prominent "egg scoop" near the tip of the abdomen.  This is a distinguishing feature for this meadowhawk.
A male Paddle-tailed Darner (Mr. Happy-face).  Notice the blue spots on the abdomen that go all the way to the last segment.

The Paddle-tailed Darner (Mr. Happy-face) has beautiful blue eyes, and a charming face.
A male Shadow Darner.  Notice that the blue spots on the abdomen get smaller near the tip, vanishing completely on the last segment.  The front stripes on the thorax are a bit greenish, compared with the yellowish front stripes on the Paddle-tailed Darner.

The Shadow Darner has a bit of a happy face himself.
A male Variable Darner.  Notice that the side stripes on the thorax are very thin, and even break off into two segments.  The front stripes are quite small.  Also, notice that the last segment of the abdomen has cream-colored spots, and that the appendages are not paddle shaped.

The Variable Darner is clearly related to the Happy-face Darner.

That's it for now.  We hope to see you there!

Happy Dragonflying,
Jim and Betsy Walker

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