Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Magnuson Park

This weekend we went to Magnuson Park in Seattle for the first time this summer. It was hot, and we were looking for shade most of the time. Still, the dragonflies were happy, and lots of them could be be seen at the various ponds.

Here's the location of Magnuson Park:

In the old days—when I was a kid—this area was known as Sandpoint. In those days, it was the location of Sandpoint Naval Airbase. Now, it's a lovely park with lots of different areas for different activities.

Our main interest is in the wildlife area, which consists of a smooth gravel path that winds around a number of small ponds, each slightly different in character. Some ponds dry up completely in the summer, some are much reduced, and some have a water supply that keeps them full all year round. We find a different distribution of odonate species at the various ponds, which makes Magnuson Park an interesting place to do some dragonflying.

On this trip, we saw lots of Western Pondhawks. Most were males, which are out and about defending their territory almost all of the time. Some were young, and still showed some of their adolescent green color on the thorax and near the base of the abdomen:

When possible, Western Pondhawks like to perch on the ground, or on a mat of algae. When a flat surface is not available, they may resort to perching on stems.

Notice that the males have a uniform blue color when fully mature. Specifically, the blue color  on the thorax is the same as the blue on the abdomen, unlike Blue Dashers whose thorax is a darker blue. Western Pondhawks also lack white stripes on the sides of the thorax that are present in Blue Dashers, and they have completely clear wings—Blue Dasher's wings have a bit of amber near the base. Finally, the face of the Western Pondhawk is green, as compared with the white face in the Blue Dasher.

Only a couple female Western Pondhawks were seen. They stay back from the water when not laying eggs, and their green color helps them blend in with the vegetation.

What a wonderful green color, especially on the thorax. Notice the small "egg scoop" projecting downward near the tip of the abdomen.

The next most numerous species at Magnuson Park was the Blue Dasher. These dragonflies are lively and beautiful. They perch frequently and give many good photo opportunities.

Here you can see that the thorax is darker blue, and has light-colored side stripes. Also, note the amber at the wing bases, and the white face.

Other species at the park included Spotted Spreadwing, Tule Bluet, Pacific Forktail, Blue-eyed Darner, Common Green Darner, Cardinal Meadowhawk, Common Whitetail, and Black Saddlebags.

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