Monday, January 29, 2018

Species Spotlight: Cherry-faced Meadowhawk

The Cherry-faced Meadowhawk looks pretty much as its name implies—it's a meadowhawk with a red face. Here's a look at one:

Like all meadowhawks but one, the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk is red in overall color. In addition, it has a black "sawtooth" stripe along the side of the abdomen, very much like the abdomen stripe seen in White-faced Meadowhawks. Here's a better look at the side stripe on the abdomen:

Just looking at the side stripe—along with the solid red thorax and clear wings—and you might think you had a White-faced Meadowhawk, which is considerably more common. You would then need to check the face color to make the final call.

We generally see the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk a couple times a year at Beaver Pond in Winthrop, WA. We haven't seen it in Anacortes, WA.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Species Spotlight: Chalk-fronted Corporal

Our next species, the Chalk-fronted Corporal, is not all that common in western Washington. It's a bit muted in the color department, too, consisting mostly of shades of black and gray. Still, it's a distinctive and easily identified species, and one that is always fun to see.

Here's the first documented sighting of a Chalk-fronted Corporal in Skagit County.

We saw this individual at Barnaby Slough near the town of Rockport, WA, and were completely surprised when it appeared. Before that we had only seen Chalk-fronted Corporals in eastern Oregon. It gave us an opportunity to take a couple pictures for documentation, and then took off—never to be seen again.

Notice the mostly black body, with grayish pruinosity at the base of the abdomen and on the front of the thorax. The light, or chalk-colored, bars on the front of the thorax give the species its name, since they are reminiscent of the "corporal" insignia in the military.

Here's the second documented sighting of this species in Skagit County, this time at Thunder Lake on the North Cascades Highway.

Another view of the same individual:

We look forward to summer, when we may get to see another Chalk-fronted Corporal in our area!

For more details on this and other species of dragonflies and damselflies on the Pacific Coast, check out my new field guide:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Whisperer Speaks!

Just thought I'd bring the blog up to date on dragonfly talks I'll be giving in 2018.

For completeness, I'll start off with the talk I gave Tuesday evening for the North Cascades Audubon in Bellingham. Here's the ad for the talk.

I had a wonderful time there. The audience was large and friendly, and the venue—in the Rotunda Room of the Whatcom Museum—was delightful. I've never been there before, but I plan to return. Thanks to all who braved a rainy, windy evening to attend!

My next talk is for Sound Waters, a conservation conference put on by Sound Water Stewards. Here's some information about the conference. I see it's all booked up for this year, but you might want to keep it in mind for next year.

Here's the description of my talk:

Looking out further into 2018, here are the Dragonfly Whisperer talks that are on the books now:

August 7, Sun Mountain Lodge in Winthrop, WA.

August 8, Field Trip in Winthrop.

September 11, Burlington Public Library.

September 15, Arlington Public Library.

September 17, Freeland Public Library.

I'm sure there will be more talks as well, but these are the confirmed dates so far.

I'll send out details before each upcoming talk, so keep a look out. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Species Spotlight: Cardinal Meadowhawk

In these deep winter months, when the dragonflying days of summer seem so far away, it's nice to look at one of the highlights of the dragonfly season—the Cardinal Meadowhawk.

This is primarily a western species, as can be seen in their range map:

Cardinal Meadowhawks are so intensely red that they almost seem unreal—as if they might be made of bright red plastic. Their abdomens are pure red, with no consistent black markings as in so many meadowhawks. In addition, the abdomen is noticeably flattened; that is, wider than it is high. Their eyes and face are red, and they have two white spots on the sides of the thorax. In fact, these white spots are what remain of white stripes in younger individuals. With age the stripes fade away, leaving just a spot at the base of each stripe. The white spots are often hard to see because the Cardinal Meadowhawk has a tendency to fold its wings forward when perched, hiding the sides of the thorax.

Better field marks, and ones that aren't mentioned in many field guides, are the dark red patches at the base of the wings—especially the hindwings. These patches are diagnostic for this species, and are readily seen even when the dragonfly is perched, facing away from you, and folding its wings forward.

Here's another look at the dark red (tending toward black with age) patches in the wings:

Find out more about this species, and the other common dragonfly and damselfly species of the Pacific Coast, in my new field guide:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Species Spotlight: Canada Darner

The next species to grace the spotlight, the Canada Darner, is one that is not seen all that often—and when it is spotted, it's often high up on a tree trunk. Another one of the mosaic darners, a group that that includes the Happy-face Darner (Paddle-tailed Darner), the Canada Darner is best known by its "notched" side stripes that look like slippers or clogs.

Here's a typical view of a Canada Darner, perched on the vertical surface of a light-colored tree trunk.

A closer look reveals simple appendages and cream-colored spots on the last segment 10 of the abdomen.

These features are consistent with both a Canada Darner and a Variable Darner, but the prominent front stripes on the thorax, and the robust stripe on the top of segment 2, indicate that the Canada Darner is the more likely identification. To be certain, though, we need to see the side stripes of the thorax.

The next photo shows another Canada Darner perched high in a tree. In this case, you can just barely see the notched shape of the side stripe through the front wing. This confirms the identification.

Here's a better look at the side stripes. Notice that the forward side stripe looks like a house slipper, or a clog, with the toes near the dragonfly's head. The rear side stripe is shaped like a short spike pointing forward.

A slightly closer view of the same individual:

We haven't seen this species in Anacortes, but it is seen occasionally at Barnaby Slough, high in the foothills of the Cascades. We see it on a more regular basis at the Beaver Pond near Sun Mountain Lodge in eastern Washington.

Find out more about this species, and the other mosaic darners, in my new field guide:

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year!

Well, it's here—2018. Here's wishing you and yours a happy and fulfilling New Year.

And may it be a happy New Year as well!