Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Late Sightings

This has been a weird year, as we all know, what with the pandemic affecting everything. I haven't gone out dragonflying nearly as much as in normal times, and I haven't been keeping up with this blog as much as I would like to either. I need to get back to doing some of these normal activities.

With that in mind, I've been visiting Little Cranberry Lake recently on nice sunny days. It's late in the season, but there are still three species of dragonflies that are out and active. One is the Autumn Meadowhawk.

The above photo shows a pair of Autumn Meadowhawks in tandem—that is, with the male attached to the female, though they are not in the wheel position. Notice the brighter red color in the male (top), and the tiny appendages at the tip of the female's abdomen (bottom). There are lots of these meadowhawks flying about and landing everywhere—including on people—but I haven't seen any of them laying eggs yet.

The other two dragonfly species are that are out and about are Paddle-tailed Darners and Shadow Darners. They are close cousins to one another, with very similar appearance and behavior. Let's take a look at some of the relevant field marks that help to identify them.

First, let's look at the Paddle-tailed Darner. Here is a male perched in the bushes.

What a beautiful creature. This species, remember, is the Happy-face Dragonfly. A few of the best field marks for this darner are illustrated below:

These field marks are the ones that are easiest to see in a perched individual, and they are quite definitive.

Next, let's take a look at the Shadow Darner. Here is a perched male:

The same field marks for this species are given below:

Notice the direct comparisons between the two species.

There is still a lot of activity going on, including egg laying in the darners, and more sunny days coming up. I look forward to additional days observing dragonflies before the end of the season.

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