Friday, October 2, 2015

Autumn Has Arrived!

Yes, autumn has arrived – both as reckoned by the calendar, and by nature.

In our backyard, we have lots of Dark-eyed Juncos, which ushered in the Fall season right on schedule on September 23.  The juncos leave our yard at the beginning of Spring – heading for the nearby forests – and return at the beginning of Fall.  They are really incredibly reliable in cueing us in to the changes of the seasons.

Another key indicator of Fall are the Autumn Meadowhawks.  Just a few days ago I had an Autumn Meadowhawk land on my shoulder at Cranberry Lake.  It reminded me of a wonderful dragonfly haiku:

Red dragonfly on my shoulder
calls me his friend.
Autumn has arrived.

In general, if a red dragonfly lands on you – especially in the Fall – you can be pretty sure it's an Autumn Meadowhawk.

Here's a female Autumn Meadowhawk that was seen at Beaver Pond in Winthrop just a few days ago:

She seems to be busy eating something she caught on the wing.  Also, note her yellow legs.  Formerly, this dragonfly was known as the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, but the legs turn dark with age, and so the name was changed to Autumn Meadowhawk to recognize their late-flying proclivity.

That this individual is a female is clear by the lack of hamules on the underside of the second segment of the abdomen.  This is indicated in the photo below:

You can also see the prominent "egg scoop" near the tip of the abdomen.  The female dips the tip of her abdomen into the water, and collects a droplet of water that is held in place by the scoop – almost like a scoop of ice cream held in place by a cone.  She then lays eggs into the droplet, and finally slams into the shoreline vegetation to dislodge the droplet.  Another view of the egg scoop is shown below:

With Fall in full swing, it's good to see that the orbital changes of the Earth are reflected in the natural world.

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