I'm not related to Edmund Walker, as far as I know, but the fact that one of the mosaic darners carries the name Walker has always been a fun connection with my interests. This is especially true since Walker's Darner is a close relative of the Paddle-tailed Darner (Happy-face Darner), to which I have such a special connection. Thus, I've long looked forward to seeing a Walker's Darner.
The problem with seeing a Walker's Darner for me is that they had never been seen in Washington. Their range is mostly restricted to California, with just a few isolated observations in Oregon. In addition, they don't start flying until mid-summer, when I'm usually in Washington watching Happy-face Darners splash-dunking and spin-drying.
Last week, Betsy and I decided to take a short road trip to enjoy the good weather while it was still with us. Just minutes before we left I checked OdonataCentral to see if we might be going near any of the observation sites for Walker's Darner in Oregon. I knew there were a couple sites along the Columbia Gorge, and I thought we might visit one of them – even though it was too late in the season according to some of the field guides. I was surprised, then, when I saw a new dot on the Walker's Darner map in Washington State, on the Washington shore of the Columbia River! It was a state record for Walker's Darner, and it was observed just a few weeks before I checked, in the last half of September. We decided to give the location a try, even though we would be getting there in the second week of October.
OdonataCentral provided details of the location. It was near White Salmon, on Old Highway 8, about a mile north of the highway on Major Creek Road. There's a sharp bend in Major Creek Road where a small creek passes underneath, and that's where they were seen. We arrived there at about 2:00 pm, and just as I was getting out of the car a darner flew by. We followed its flight until it landed and, sure enough, it was a Walker's Darner. This was on October 9, 2012, a new late flight date for both Oregon and Washington.
So fun to finally see Walker's Darner, and in Washington to boot, where it had never been seen before. Below are a couple photos from Major Creek Road. The darner is perched high in a tree, making photography difficult, but the photos do show everything that's needed for a confirmed sighting. We've entered our observation with OdonataCentral – it's listed in their records as OC#382101.
|Walker's Darner, male, perched high in a tree. Notice that the side stripes on the thorax are whitish, compared with yellowish stripes on the Paddle-tailed and Shadow Darners.|
|Walker's Darner. A good look at the whitish side stripes on the thorax.|
|Betsy took a quick picture of me to document the time and place of our first sighting of a Walker's Darner.|