Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dragonflying at Tortilla Creek

One of the places we like to dragonfly in Arizona is Tortilla Creek, in the little tourist town of Tortilla Flat.  The town consists of a few small "cowboy"-type businesses along the road.  Here's a picture of the town:

Most of the visitors to Tortilla Flat are probably not even aware of the small creek, Tortilla Creek, just across the street from the town.  Here's a view of the creek:

Everywhere you look when you visit Tortilla Creek you see incredible desert vistas, like the one below.

Dragonflies are out and flying at Tortilla Creek, though not nearly in the numbers that will be seen in about a month.  Even so, we had some good views of Common Green Darners, Flame Skimmers, Roseate Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and a Mexican Forktail.

The Flame Skimmers seemed particularly vibrant.  Here's one that landed right in front of us:

Notice the intense red colors in the wings, including the dark rectangular concentrations (opacities) near the wing bases – an important way to distinguish the Flame Skimmer from the similar Neon Skimmer.  I also like the yellow cross veins near the leading edges of the wings, and the contrast they make with the red colors elsewhere.

A Blue Dasher landed near us, and offered an unusual rear view:

Later, it turned around to give us some more common perspectives:

One other dragonfly gave us some nice close views – a male Roseate Skimmer.  It looked quite young and fresh, with lovely colors, and fairly clean wings.  Here are a few looks at it:

What a treat!

Tortilla Creek may not be well known, and it may be overlooked because of the tourist attractions across the road, but it's a nice place to view birds and dragonflies.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Plateau Spreadwing at Bosque del Apache

One of the fun things about our recent visit to Bosque del Apache was seeing a new "life ode."

We were driving along the north loop road when we noticed a nice pond with lots of emergent vegetation.  It looked like a good spot to see some damselflies, so we stopped to check it out.  I saw some forktails there, and almost immediately saw some spreadwings as well.  Looking at them through my binoculars I could tell they were a species I wasn't familiar with, so I took some pics for later research.  It turns out they were Plateau Spreadwings, a new odonate for us.

Here's one of the first pics I got of this species.  This individual was some distance away, but my point-and-shoot camera did a pretty good job of getting a shot.

I like the iridescence in the wings.

Here's a closer shot, showing the distinctive thorax stripes – a light-colored stripe on the "shoulder", and a broad brown stripe below it.

As seen in this picture, spreadwings do sometimes perch with their wings held together, though the usual pose is with the wings spread, as in the first picture.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Capitol Building in Santa Fe

On a recent trip to New Mexico, we stopped at the state's capitol building in Santa Fe.  It's a very nice building, very inviting.  Here's the senate chamber:

The lobbies are full of beautiful art work, including the following painting that caught my eye:

I love the various Native America motifs in the painting, and especially the three symbolic dragonflies.  The lower one is reminiscent of a Flame Skimmer, the middle one makes me think of a Red Rock Skimmer, and the top one could be a Western Pondhawk.  In any case, it was cool to see these dragonfly representations in the halls of power in Santa Fe.

The bluish dragonfly at the top is near a spiral symbol:

I've looked for the meaning of these spirals, which are quite common in Native American art, but no one really knows what they mean.  Some say they stand for water, others say they signify life, but no one knows for sure.

My thought – a bit biased I must admit – has always been that the spirals could represent the water spraying off a dragonfly as it performs a spin-dry after a series of splash-dunks.  What is particularly interesting in this painting is the association between the dragonfly symbol and the spiral symbol – there might be something to my spin-dry interpretation after all.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Variegated Meadowhawks at Bosque Del Apache

Last week, my wife and I visited Bosque del Apache for the first time.  It's quite a delightful place, especially for birdwatchers.  There were a few dragonflies there, as well, including Common Green Darners and Blue-eyed Darners.

We also saw a number of Variegated Meadowhawks, which are wonderfully photogenic.  Here are a few pictures from April 5 this year.

This was the first Variegated Meadowhawk we saw at Bosque.  It perched nicely for us on its favorite perch over the water.

After a while it moved to a closer perch.  Here it is coming in for a landing:

The next shot shows it after its pinpoint landing:

Later we saw another individual, this one much younger:

Notice that the side of the thorax has white stripes, ending in yellow dots at the bottom.  As the meadowhawk matures, the white stripes fade away, leaving just the yellow dots.  This is the case with the first individual, show above, where we see just a faint remnant of the white stripes.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The Unexpected Pleasures of Dragonflying

You never know what you're going to find when you're out in the field looking for dragonflies.  I went out yesterday to check on the local odes, but didn't find any.  What I did find was well worth the effort, however, and I'm glad I went.

First, I noticed that our saguaro cactus is doing quite well in our front yard.  Here's a look at it:

It has interesting needles, with one spike much larger than the rest:

Also present in the garden were roses and a type of daisy:

As I admired the flowers, I heard a pigeon cooing and strutting to woo its mate:

The really big surprise, however, awaited me when I got down to the pond.  Standing there on the shore was a Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, a species we've never seen at this location before.

That was quite a treat – just one of those unexpected pleasures!  It's especially unexpected when you consider the range of the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck: