Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Glider Glade at the Gilbert Water Ranch, Part I

Wandering Gliders are interesting dragonflies for a number of reasons, not least of which is that they've been observed to migrate across the Indian Ocean from India to Africa.  Quite a journey for a small insect.  Their long, wide wings provide lots of lift on long flights.

In most cases, Wandering Gliders are seen for just a few seconds as they fly by.  Even so, they're pretty easy to identify.  They have relatively short bodies for the size of their wings, are mostly yellow, and have a mustard-colored face that is set off by eyes that are deep red on top.  When we see one fly by we usually say, "There goes Colonel Mustard."  Often, that's all we get to see of it.

There's one place, however, where gliders (both Wandering Gliders and Spot-winged Gliders) are commonly seen to perch for their portrait – this is what we refer to as "Glider Glade" at the Gilbert Water Ranch.  The location of the glade is shown below.  It's just off of the fishing lake by the library, known as the Water Ranch Lake.

The location of Glider Glade at the Gilbert Water Ranch.  A good place to see gliders.

When we see gliders flying low over the glade we always watch to see if they might be looking for a place to land.  When one lands, I walk toward the last place where it was seen.  Usually, I end up flushing it as I approach its location and it takes wing again.  With any luck it lands again in some far off corner of the glade.  Once again I approach the location, but often I end up flushing it again.  After repeating this procedure 3 or 4 times I finally get to see the dragonfly from a distance.  This allows me to approach closely without flushing it.  And then, once it gets used to me being nearby, I can approach as closely as I like for photos.

Here are a couple photos from a few days ago at Glider Glade.  I should mention that the dragonflies are never netted or "posed" – I don't own a net.  They're free-range dragonflies, like all the dragonflies in my pictures, and are free to take flight any time they like.

A Wandering Glider perched at the Gilbert Water Ranch.  Notice the very wide hind wings – good for gliding, presumably.

This photo shows the field marks mentioned above – a yellow body, red eyes on top, mustard-colored face, and broad wings.  All dragonflies are characterized by hind wings that are wider than the forewings, and this trait is particularly pronounced in this species.  Notice how the hind wings extend for about half the length of the abdomen.

Here's another shot of the same individual.

A Wandering Glider at Glider Glade.

Here's a closer look at this dragonfly.

Details of the Wandering Glider.

Another individual gave me the opportunity to take some pictures, though there's a shadow on its back.  Still, it's a nice look at an elusive dragonfly.  This one shows a feature sometimes seen in Wandering Gliders – a bit of amber color on the wing tips.

Another Wandering Glider.  The dark "stripe" down its back is the shadow of the stem it's using as a perch.

If you make it to the water Ranch, be sure to be on the lookout for gliders near Glider Glade.  It's a good place to observe this intriguing species.

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