Monday, November 11, 2013

A Late Meadowhawk

On October 6, Betsy and I went to Magnuson Park in Seattle for a little dragonflying.  We weren't expecting too much that time of year, but it was a nice day, and we thought we might as well give it a try.  We found quite a few darners and spreadwings, as we expected, so it was a fun outing.

To our surprise, we also found some Cardinal Meadowhawks out and about.  They are one of our first meadowhawks to appear.  In fact, they show up in early May, well before most of the other common meadowhawks in our area.  We hadn't expected to see them this late in the season, and a check with the calendar of flight dates showed that the latest date previously reported for the Cardinal Meadowhawk was October 2.  Here's a look at the flight season for Cardinal Meadowhawks, including our modest extension to October 6:

Another way to look at the flight season is shown below.  In this graph, we plot the probability a Cardinal Meadowhawk will be seen in a given month.  For example, notice that about 40% of the Cardinal Meadowhawk observations are made in the month of July.  The data for this plot are taken from 3 successive years of observations.

Even though it was late in the season, the Cardinal Meadowhawks were in prime color – which means intense red.  Here are a couple photos from October 6:

A male Cardinal Meadowhawk.  Notice the dark red color at the base of the wings.
Brilliant red on a sparkling, sunny day.  The dark red in the wings is nicely visible, but the wings make it difficult to see the white dots on the side of the thorax.

Cardinal Meadowhawks are primarily a west coast species, as you can see from the following dot map:

Even in our part of the country, they tend to be more common in the west:

When identifying meadowhawks, remember that Cardinal Meadowhawks are our only meadowhawk with a dark red concentration of color near the base of the wings.  This field mark can be seen from virtually any angle, which is often not the case for the white spots on the side of the thorax, and is quite definitive for this species.

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