Saturday, July 22, 2017

Texas Odes

On 30 June, we explored a small, artificial pond in Denton County just north of Dallas, Texas. Like our photos from Kansas two days earlier, all were well known to us in Northfield, Minnesota. I was excited when I found the first dragonfly. It was flying about thorny bushes fairly distant from water. But, instead of something exotic, it proves to be a female Blue Dasher.
The second is a male Widow Skimmer. Except the Rocky Mountain west, these dragonflies are common across much of North America. The second photo is of a female Eastern Pondhawk, abundant across most of eastern North America. (We also saw an Eastern Amberwing, like the one from Kansas in my last post.)

Friday, July 21, 2017

Kansas Odonata

Our adventures last June began with a quick trip to visit kids in Dallas. Texas in the summer heat may not appeal to all, but I looked forward to seeing a few new dragonflies. Our first afternoon was in Andover, Kansas. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express that boasts a small duck pond. We found a number of dragonflies. Unfortunately, none was new. The first photo is of a male Eastern Amberwing.
Flying over the pond was a Prince Baskettail. Hard to photograph, but occasionally seen in Northfield.
This third photo is a Blue Dasher, abundant in many parts of the country.

This last damselfly is probably a Skimming Bluet. Note the lack of blue rings on the abdomen. The lily pads upon which it perched is also typical habitat for this species. (Thanks to Scott King for help identifying this one.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

We have been away from the Internet for the past three weeks. Our adventures began with a quick trip to Dallas to visit grandchildren. My target bird for this first leg of our journey was the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I lacked a good photo in my collection and also missed seeing a vagrant flycatcher in Minnesota in June. These flycatchers are common in Texas and the southern Great Plains, They specialize in eating grasshoppers and beetles. Individual tail length is variable, although males generally have longer ones. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Four-spotted Skimmer

Four-spotted Skimmers are found across Canada and the northern United States (further south in the West). They also inhabit Europe and Asia, where they are known as Four-spotted Chasers. I caught this individual backlit in Erika’s garden on 8 June 2017. Some populations are migratory, and can be found in large aggregations. The prey upon other dragonflies, even those of similar size (Odonata Central).

Friday, June 30, 2017

Blue Dasher

Our first Blue Dasher of the year, 24 June 2017, in Erika’s garden. Blue Dashers are often abundant across most of the United States. Only Montana and Wyoming lack records in Odonata Central. They perch with their wings slanted downward from treetops to almost ground level. They often return to their perches, making photography somewhat easier. 

Blue Dashers are fierce predators. They take over 10% of their body weight in prey every day. They are aggressive towards competing males, often raising their blue tails at them. Females lay up to 700 eggs in only 35 seconds. Odonata Central, from whom most of this information is gleaned, maintains that Blue Dashers are largest in the spring, and get progressively smaller in the summer and fall. I thought, however, that this one seemed relatively small as it was.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Eastern Forktail

I agree with Scott King, who once mentioned that Eastern Forktails, were they not so common, would be a highly sought after damselfly. Sort of the Blue Jay (actually a quite handsome bird) of the dragonfly world. Males have bright emerald bodies and azure-tipped tails. Most adult females are a lovely shade of blue. Immature females sport a bright cinnamon color. I took these photos on 2 June 2017 in the Dakota County Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Red-eyed Vireo

The Red-eyed Vireo’s persistent, clear whistle is often heard in North American forests. The song seems to ask a short question and then give a short answer. A folk name is Preacher Bird. One observer commented, “I have always thought that whoever dubbed this vireo the ‘preacher' could have had no very exalted opinion of the clergy” (Bradford Torrey in Bent 1950).

The word vireo comes from the Latin “greenfinch.” Most vireos are greenish birds (Gruson 1972). Whatever the name, this photo clearly shows this vireo’s red eye. Erika and I found this bird in Carleton College’s arboretum in May 2017. This species breeds across much of Canada and the United States. They winter east of the Andes in the Amazon jungle. When migrating, this bird orients to the earth’s magnetic field (Cimprich et al. 2000).

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawks are abundant across much of eastern North America. This one is from Erika’s garden yesterday. I think this is a young pondhawk. Adult males will become all blue. The tail is just changing—a rather regal image in my opinion. Pondhawks are fierce predators. Several have been zipping around the garden this spring.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

American Redstart

American Redstarts are abundant in many eastern and northwestern forests. I had high hopes of catching this warbler’s “flash pattern” as it hopped through the forest sunlight and shadows. Wouldn’t you know that this individual appears to be missing his central tail feathers? During the flash pattern, the redstart fans his tail and droops his wings. This behavior attracts mates and warns competitors. The action may also flush its small insect prey from nearby vegetation (Sherry et al. 2016).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hagen’s Bluet

Hagen’s Bluets are among a suite of damselflies that are difficult to identify—unless you are an expert in a lab with a microscope. Yet these creatures are pretty and I find myself taking photos even though the prospects for naming them are slim. I shared this photo, taken on 16 June 2017 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Carver County, with my dragonfly guru, Scott King. To my surprise, he replied that this damselfly is a Hagen’s Bluet. Scott wrote, “the upper appendages slope downward, giving it a kind of wedge shape.” (The appendages are the structures at the very end of the abdomen.) You can enlarge this photo and almost see this trait.

Hagen’s Bluets are common near ponds and lakes across much of northern North America. They are named after Hermann August Hagen, a 19th century German entomologist. In 1867 he became curator of Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, where he enjoyed the title of Professor of Entomology.