Saturday, July 11, 2009

Dragonfly Lifers #10-11

Dragonfly action is really picking up. The common species I've seen before have exploded in numbers, and a few new species have appeared on the scene recently. I've added two new dragonflies to my official list, and seen a few others that I can't positively identify.

My official dragonfly life list hit double digits last week when I spotted a different dragonfly zipping around one of the lakes in my neighborhood. After finally getting a cruddy photograph - the thing was flying around most of the time, and only rarely landing - I was able to identify it as a Red-tailed Pennant (Brachymesia furcata.) It is one good-looking dragonfly, and has a rather limited range in California. I was excited to see it almost in my backyard!

This afternoon, when I walked up to the lake to check for dragonflies, it was as if the dragonfly floodgates had been let loose. Dragonflies of all shapes, sizes, and colors were zipping around everywhere! I was quick to notice dozens of small damselflies perched on downed reeds and zooming low over the water. It was a new species, I could tell - the previous week, none had been present, and now there were dozens! The closest I could get with these ones is Bluet sp. (Enallagma sp.) A few different species occur in Southern California, and all are very similar. To identify them, I'll have to take some as specimens and look at their abdomen tips under a microscope. Here's a photo of one of the mystery bluets (if you look closely, you can see he is munching on a gnat.)

Not all dragonflies are this difficult to identify, and I was happy to be able to instantly identify several Mexican Amberwings (Perithemis intensa.) These tiny, brilliant orange dragonflies were new to me. Despite their hyperactivity (they seemed to live just to pick fights with each other), a couple posed cooperatively for photos.

Blue Dashers, which had been previously represented by one a couple individuals at the lake, were swarming all over the place. The chalky-blue males were engaging in vicious dogfights, and I spotted a single female laying eggs in the water. It hovered in place as it laid eggs, so I was able to photograph it in flight.

Other species I saw today included Common Green Darner, Flame Skimmer, Variegated Meadowhawk, and Pacific Forktail. I'll be sure to get out dragonflying more in the next few days; it was truly a spectacular show for a tiny neighborhood lake!

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