2011 was my third year of really trying to learn the dragonflies and damselflies found in my region of Quebec. Hampered by the lack of a field guide specific to the area and only having an outdated source of information for the status of Quebec odonata, it has been a bit of a challenge. Last year I tried to join a Quebec insect discussion forum but was told I could only post in French. My French is lousy and, as the on-line translators tend to be a bit wayward with simple stuff, I shuddered to think what they would make of dragonfly names so I decided against it, they appeared to be mainly collectors anyway.
As a birder my interest in odonata is to see, identify and enjoy these fantastic insects, not catch them and look at their genitalia to identify them. Oh for a birders field guide that does not mention the epiproct or occiput, I am sure many birders will agree with me there while many insect people (not a description of their appearance) will disagree. I’m also against the catching of voucher specimens of readily identifiable species, digital photography is enough in most cases.
A bonus this year was the chance to see a few species in Arizona in September and New Jersey in October. Most were new for me and it whetted the appetite for return visits to both states more in season for odes.
My year ended with 81 species in Quebec including, as far as I know, the latest Autumn Meadowhawks for Quebec by two days (gosh). I had 97 species for the year with the additions from Arizona and New Jersey. Next year I intend to target gaps in my knowledge and photographic record so, snaketails beware. In my Odonata ID pages (see the tab on the page header) are some ID plates which you might find worthwhile downloading (allowed), I am in the process of improving them. I got a tablet for Christmas (thank you Sandra, big surprise) and will now create them specifically for that medium. If it continues to blow and snow outside as it is while I type this, indoor time will not be an issue!
Finally, if you are a local birder and are interested in getting into odonata, check out my guiding link. I’ll do some workshops next year if there is enough interest, just check back regularly for details when posted.
Below are a small selection of images from the year, most have already been posted here at some point. If you want to use any of my images for any reason, please contact me to discuss, all are copyright to Mark Dennis and may not be used without permission.
First up is the Calico Pennant, one of my favourite species and failry common in the right habitat. I see them in abundance at St-Lazare sand pits and they can be easily stalked as they sit on top of low vegetation. The males are the most vivid with a striking deep crimson tone, no need to net this one!
Boreal Snaketail from Parc Mont Tremblant, the only snaketail I’ve ever seen. This dragonfly type is part of a larger group with clubbed tails called err.. clubtails! They can be devils to ID sometimes but shouldn’t be. A well illustrated guide showing upperside, the side of the body and noting reginal variation is desperately needed.
This Variable Darner was at Tremblant, laying its eggs in this floating log. Darners can be very confusing, they are hard to pin down and their field marks poorly known or described and yet there markings appear to be distinctive to each species. I have taken to trying to photograph darners in flight, with some success. If you can get enough of a view of the markings on the sides of the body you can ID them, usually.
This is a female Variable Meadowhawk from New Jersey but we saw them first in Arizona. I think the female of this species is the most striking of the sexes. There is supposedly one Quebec record of this species and, with Global warming a fact, they might extend into Quebec if they are not actually already here somewhere.
Black-shouldered Spinylegs from Huntingdon, QC. It’s shoulders are black and you can be as rude about it’s legs as you like. We also saw them in Tremblant too so it was a good to get two sets of photos from different insects for reference.
Flame Skimmer from Arizona – a very striking insect. We found these accidentally when we called into the signposted Bubbling Ponds reserve near Sedona and found odes everywhere. A couple of days later they had cut down the banksides and many of the odes had vanished, we were very lucky.
This is a Black-tipped Darner, photgraphed while it layed eggs (oviposited, acceptable technical term) into the vegetaion of my garden pond, a pond so small a sneeze would fill it! I’d looked for this species for some time to it was great to finally see it and get some good photos. This and other darner species swarm in the autumn and I am sure I will have seen it in one of those masses, just not well enough to ID.
This Carolina Saddlebags was at Cape May in October. Cape May is not just a place that attracts migrant birds but insects too and we saw many hundreds of individuals of this species passing through there. They were on the wing from first light and could be watched setting out to sea in droves, fortunately some settled for photos. Black Saddlebags were also present in much smaller numbers, the mix being roughly 95% Carolinas.
This Checkered Setwing was another Bubbling Ponds, Arizona species. Setwings were a new group for me although I have subsequently identified some of the species seen on trips to Brazil and Panama as belonging to this group.
Finally, a Canadian Darner, the default big darner which is on the wing in Quebec from July onwards. To get this sort of shot I use the sports setting on the camera, shooting as many frames per second as I can and using manual focus. It can be hit or mis and you delete a lot of images which are either side of focus but generally end up with one for ID at least.