Thursday, June 21, 2018

Species Spotlight: Red-veined Meadowhawk

We've been seeing the Red-veined Meadowhawk recently at Smiley's Bottom here in Anacortes. In fact, Smiley's Bottom is the only place we've ever seen the Red-veined Meadowhawk. It's an interesting species, but not widespread.

The Red-veined Meadowhawk can be mistaken for the Cardinal Meadowhawk. After all, it has white spots on the sides of the thorax like the Cardinal Meadowhawk, as well as some red in the wings. Here's a look at a male Red-veined Meadowhawk:

You can just see a white spot on the thorax under the wings—there are two white spots on either side of the thorax, but it's hard to get a good look at them through the wings. In addition, notice the black markings along the sides of the abdomen. These features are pointed out below:

For comparison, let's take a look at the Cardinal Meadowhawk. Here's a male, showing the pure red abdomen and a white spot on the thorax:

Perhaps the best distinguishing feature is the dark red parch on the wings near the base in the Cardinal Meadowhaw. This is shown below:

This dark red, opaque patch is unique to the Cardinal Meadowhawk.

It's not surprising that humans sometimes mix up these two species—they seem to do that themselves. In the following photo we see a male Red-veined Meadowhawk in tandem with a female Cardinal Meadowhawk:

The following photo shows the more typical situation—a male Red-veined Meadowhawk attached to a female of the same species:

This species lays eggs as the pair hovers in tandem, with the female flicking out one or two eggs at a time. The eggs, which look like small grains of rice, tumble down into the vegetation and onto the ground. It's interesting to note that the ground is dry when the eggs are deposited, but is underwater when the Fall rains return.

You can find out more about this species and others in Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast.

Friday, June 15, 2018

My Best Compliment Ever!

Last weekend we attended a birthday party, with lots of young nieces and nephews in attendance. At the party, I was told that my niece's favorite book—at the moment anyway—is my field guide, Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast. She really surprised me when she started talking about darners, and the happy-face dragonfly. She knows that the happy-face is a darner, but that there are other darners who aren't the happy-face dragonfly.

My niece loves looking at all the pretty pictures in the book. She and Betsy spent some time counting the spots on the Eight-spotted and Twelve-spotted Skimmers. And she especially likes the picture of all the Autumn Meadowhawks perched on my legs, and the pictures of dragonflies on my fingers. She wants me to show her some dragonflies in real life, so we'll have to do that soon.

Here's a link to the field guide on Amazon:

Field Guide

You'll find some nice compliments there as well, but none that to compare with the one from my niece.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Heart Lake

I went to Heart Lake in Anacortes a couple days ago, and the dragonfly activity was at a high level—dragonflies everywhere, with lots of egg-laying behavior on display. There were also some newcomers for the year, including the Cardinal Meadowhawk and the Eight-spotted Skimmer.

Here's a Cardinal Meadowhawk perched near the egg-laying area:

This guy's is looking up, checking out his surroundings. Notice that his abdomen is broad and flat, as is typical of this species. Here's another individual on his favorite leaf:

You can just barely see one of the white spots on the side of the thorax, one of the field marks for this species. Also, notice that the abdomen is fringed with yellow, indicating this is a young male. The abdomen starts off yellow, and turns bright red with age. This individual is just at the end of this transition.

Most of the egg laying was being done by the Cardinal Meadowhawks. Here is a couple dipping into the water to deposit a small mass of eggs:

This is a frame capture from a video, and in the video itself you can see the egg mass dropped off by the female, which then slowly sinks to the bottom.  Sometimes there were a couple pairs laying eggs at the same time:

Another common species along the shore was the Dot-tailed Whiteface. A number of pairs were seen in the wheel position, though I didn't see any egg laying. Here's a male perched on the ground:

This was also the first day I've seen the Eight-spotted Skimmer in Anacortes. Here's a young male on his favorite perch in the bushes:

It's clear this is a male from the white spots in the wings. Notice, however, that it's a young male because the abdomen still looks like the abdomen of a female, with straight yellow side stripes. As it matures, the abdomen will turn a lovely pruinose blue.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Species Spotlight: Spiny Baskettail—New for Anacortes!

A couple days ago, Betsy and I went to Cranberry Lake to see how dragonfly season was progressing. The activity was high, especially among Pacific Forktails and Four-spotted Skimmers. This was discussed in a previous post:

We also saw some American Emeralds, which are always fun to see because they are fairly uncommon and have a short flight season. We saw one land in a tree, and another in the grass. The one in the tree was indeed an American Emerald. See the following post for more information on this species:

It turns out that the one in the grass was actually something completely different. Here's a look at it:

This is clearly a baskettail—and a female at that, judging from how stocky the abdomen is near the base, where it joins onto the thorax. Notice a projection extending downward near the tip of the abdomen, which is enlarged in the next shot:

This projection, or "genital plate" as it is called, is used to hold an egg mass produced by the female. Here's a female we saw in Oregon a couple years ago in the process of making a large egg mass at the tip of her abdomen:

Once she has a good-sized egg mass she flies over the water, diligently looking for a fish-free place to drop it off. The egg mass in this picture was dropped off in this way, but even with all the precautions taken by the female the eggs were gobbled up immediately by a waiting fish. We saw dragonflies at Cranberry Lake with prominent egg masses, but had never seen one close up before to determine the species.

Here's a better look at our new species:

The identification is a little tricky because we're dealing with a female, but there are basically two possibilities—a Spiny Baskettail or a Beaverpond Baskettail. If we had a male the call is easy, because the Spiny male has simple appendages, whereas the Beaverpond male has pistol-shaped appendages. The females of both species have simple appendages, however, so this nice field mark can't be used. Instead, we note the color along the back border of the head. In this individual it is black, as is pointed out in the following photo:

This border area would be yellow in a Beaverpond Baskettail female.

All in all, we were pleasantly surprised to find this new species at our familiar lake:

You never know what you're going to find when you go out into the field!

For more information on basketballs, emeralds, and many other west coast species, check out my field guide at the following link: