14 May 2015

Boghunters Converge

In 2014, Mark O'Brien had received information from David Marvin that he found Ringed Boghaunters (Williamsonia lintneri) at Rose Lake State Wildlife Research Area east of Lansing, MI.  At the beginning of May, Mark said we should look for the boghaunters when the Amelanchiers are blooming.

May 2nd looked like a perfect day for an afternoon of searching.  We parked at the lot across from the shooting range on Peacock Road in Clinton County.  A trail heads east to the bog which is approximately 1/2 mile away just inside Shiawassee County.  Mark was on the prowl.

We found a few very teneral Dot-tailed Whitefaces (L. intacta), a Common Green Darner (A. junius), and several teneral Beaverpond Baskettails (E. canis).

male Beaverpond Baskettail
After an hour of searching the leaves and branches at knee-high or lower, a Ringed Boghaunter (W. lintneri) flew past me and landed on a tree trunk just below waist height.

My first Ringed Boghaunter (W. lintneri)

Shortly after this sighting, a person appeared down the trail with a camera and was obviously searching the area.  It turns out that it was David Marvin and he was the original finder of the boghaunters at this location in 2014.

the boghunters : David Marvin and Mark O'Brien
David noted that he had observed a couple further down the trail.  With continued searching low (below knee level), I started looking a bit higher and found a couple flying above head height with one landing vertically on a tree trunk.  I lifted my net to the trunk about 8 feet above the ground and the ode didn't fly.  I actually had to nudge the dragonfly off the tree with the rim of my net in order to flip it into the bag.  The weather that day was primarily sunny, with light breeze, and temperatures near 70F.

male Ringed Boghaunter

With these sightings, Mark's timing prediction for adult Williamsonia remains intact.  The serviceberries are blooming and the boghaunters are flying.

22 April 2015

Searching for Petaltail Habitat

In 2014, the process began in Michigan to review the T & E speciesGray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi) is one species included on the list.  With less than a handful of specimens and a few known historical locations, this year I have decided to check for presence in SW Michigan counties.  (note:  This species is protected in Michigan and cannot be collected without a special permit)

To save time during the flight season, I scouted a few locations in Cass and St. Joseph counties on April 4, 2015. I found this Maryland website that describes the species' habitat.

Lawless Park, Cass County

It had been suggested to check Dr. T. K. Lawless Park since it has forested hills with seeps.  I walked a good portion of the trails (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a portion of 7).

Trail #5 is a nice hike but the west end that used to be farmland is overrun by non-native, invasive plants.  There are a couple of streams that may hold some interested odes:

Trails # 4 and 7 appeared to have the most appropriate petaltail habitat.

Seeps from the hill above trail #4 contributed to the wetland at the base:

The open beech-maple forest makes for a pleasant walk:

I didn't walk all of trail #7, but I would guess there would be potential habitat in the southwest area of trail, up to Lewis Lake Road.

Three Rivers SGA, Cass/St. Joseph Counties

I had visited Wood Creek in the Cass County portion of the state game area last year since one petaltail record was from this section.  MNFI performed surveys of this area in 2009 and this report is worth reviewing.

Wood Creek

The habitat at the creek crossing isn't right for breeding petaltails, but there were a number of other species including a significant find. (to be covered in a future post)  I looked for other access points to hillsides from the Cass County area and it was too overgrown with buckthorn and honeysuckle for "easy" access.  Then a thunderstorm arrived and finished my partial day of exploring.  Before visiting this spring, I checked topographic maps and satellite images for possible hillsides with access on the St. Joseph County side.

Purgatory Road seemed to get closest to areas with potential habitat.  Access from the road areas is a bit difficult due to thick areas of non-native, invasive buckthorns and honeysuckles, but after bushwhacking through the thickets, the woods open up significantly.   The hillsides had some seeps and the lower areas included wooded wetlands and Mill Creek.

Approximately 3/4 mile in from the road, there were large areas that appeared to have potential for petaltails.  Getting back here with a net in June will be on the agenda.

between Mill Creek and Purgatory Road

Mill Creek at Preston Road appears to be a promising area with the easiest accessibility. The bridge area has parking and there are hillside seeps within a couple hundred meters of the road.

Mill Creek at Preston Road

Curtis Creek (aka Profile Lake Drain) at Preston Road was interesting also as it has fairly easy access to the water.  It may not have good petaltail habitat nearby, but there are likely a variety of other odes.

Curtis Creek, aka Profile Lake Drain

The most interesting insect on this early date was found on a dead raccoon.  There were 14+ Margined Carrion Beetles (Oiceoptoma noveboracense) swarming around this carcass.

Margined Carrion Beetles (Oiceoptoma noveboracense)

This scouting trip was successful for finding accessible locations to revisit in late June.  Hopefully, we'll have another post in June/July noting success in finding flying Gray Petailtails (T. thoreyi) for additional locations than previously recorded.

01 February 2015

A Bog Just Off the Interstate

During a trip west this past summer, I reviewed maps for possible dragonfly spots near I-94 in Michigan.  I found a park named Bishop's Bog Preserve in Portage, just south of Kalamazoo. Bogs aren't generally easily accessible and I thought this might be a good break in the multi-hour drive.

sign showing the adjacent parks in Portage, MI

This preserve is part of a multi-park complex connected by hiking and bike paths.  During my visits (beginning and end of my trip), I spent more time than originally intended since the parks offer access to a variety of habitats: bogs, forest, fields, marsh, and lakes.

On my first visit I started from Schrier Park at the south end of the complex.  This area includes open grassy areas and trails through mature forests and connects to the Bishop's Bog boardwalk.
On my second visit I found that access to the bog was faster from the north at South Westnedge Park.  I actually parked at West Lake Nature Preserve which also has a nice loop boardwalk in the bog adjacent to West Lake and also a marsh trail.

West Lake bog loop boardwalk.  This gives the feeling of being "up north".
On August 14th, 2014, this area provided a new species for Kalamazoo County with Mottled Darner (Aeshna clepsydra). 

male Mottled Darner (A. clepsydra)

Marsh Trail sign.  There is more than a "potential" for wet shoes.
 The Bishop's Bog and Marsh Trail boardwalks are actually floating by utilizing connected plastic planks.  The walk can be refreshing on a hot summer's day as you will get wet (feet and lower legs) from the water squirting up with almost every step.  The southern portion of the Bishop's Bog boardwalk is encroached on both sides by non-native buckthorns with scattered openings, while the northern portion is open along the entire length.

Northern end of the floating boardwalk at Bishop's Bog

During a visit on August 18th, 2014, I was searching this northern end and spied a Painted Skimmer (Libelulla semifasciata) working an area with open water.  Fortunately, there were similar areas on either side of the boardwalk and the dragonfly would periodically fly from one to the other.

With patience, I was able to time my position on the boardwalk with one of its crossings and snag this male for a new late date in Michigan.

male Painted Skimmer (L. semifasciata)

I'll definitely plan to check this location out in future trips since there must be so much to see given the habitat, flora, and fauna during varying times of the year. 

04 January 2015

Sharonville SGA - Jackson County

Jackson County, Michigan, hasn't been thoroughly surveyed for dragonflies through the years.  I've scouted a few areas for odes and Sharonville SGA seems to have great potential with a variety of habitats.

On July 6th, 2014, I visited a couple spots in the State Game Area.

#1: Tamarack Lake has good-looking habitat for some less common odes.  I've also found Ostrich Fern here which may be a new location for the county and/or state. 

Tamarack Lake = Aug-2013

Almost immediately, there were two species which can be difficult to voucher.  A Prince Baskettail (E. princeps) and two or three Banded Pennants (C. fasicata).  The baskettail tends to fly continuously over open water and the pennant typically worked the edge of the vegetation out in the water.  Trying to take advantage of an incoming light breeze, I tried to position myself in a location where the dragonflies might be pushed closer to shore and if a "conflict" between them ensued, I just might get lucky to snag one or two species.  The boardwalk/dock only sticks out over the water by a few feet and the surrounding shoreline and lake bottom is deep muck and silt.  Thus, I couldn't wade out into the water without the risk of being swallowed alive.

Patience was key to wait for the right "gust" of breeze and aggressive interactions, but I was able to snag the target species.

male Prince Baskettail may be the first county voucher

male Banded Pennant is the second county voucher

Of course, during the interaction I made a misstep and sank in above my rubber boots.

I almost lost my boot in the muck.

#2: Forest clearings SW of Tamarack Lake and north of Lutz Road

I found this location to be great for individuals in the upland environment and if it's late in the season one can't complain about the abundance of blackberries to snack on.  In 2013 I saw a few individuals that I didn't get a chance to document.

male Spangled Skimmer (L. cyanea)

female Racket-tailed Emerald (D. libera)

The green eyes of a Racket-tailed Emerald

It was apparently a Celithemis day.

male Calico Pennant (C. elisa)

male Halloween Pennant (C. eponina)

This SGA will need additional visits in the future since there are more months and habitats to explore.

31 December 2014

When Comet Darners Attack

Julie Craves, Mark O'Brien, and I made a visit to the Fox Science Preserve outside Ann Arbor on July 4, 2014.  Earlier in the season (late May) I found Painted Skimmers (L. semifasciata) which was collected for a second county voucher, many Carolina Saddlebags (T. carolina), and a couple Comet Darners (A. longipes).  This last species would be a new species for the county if we could voucher it on this outing.

male Painted Skimmer at this location in May

Immediately on this 4th of July visit, we found additional Painted Skimmers and Carolina Saddlebags.  Shortly after looking for odes around the larger, deeper pond we had a male Comet Darner fly past.  These fast, strong flyers always seem to be just out of net's reach.  The water in the larger pond was a bit deeper than our rubber boots were high which prevented access to the entire area, unless we wanted to have wet feet.  This was a dry-foot day for me.

Mark O'Brien in the vegetation
We found a couple female Comet Darners apparently hunting or searching for oviposition sites.  The two locations frequented most often were separated by tall vegetation.  Mark stood in one location and I stayed in the more open area trying to inform Mark when a female was approaching his secluded section.  The female generally flew across the deeper water several inches above the water's surface.  She'd then fly through the vegetation (cattails, woody plants) at the same height. 

At one point, Mark yelled out and was swinging at a female that seemed to "attack" him in the midst of the vegetation.  Shortly, thereafter he emerged with the first county record of Anax longipes.

female Comet Darner
Mark and his voucher.  I don't think she was attacking him, but mistook his shirt as additional vegetation.
At one point during the afternoon we witnessed an interesting behavior of a male and female Comet Darner.  The pair was coupled initially, then the female flew across the pond seeming to act like the other female hunting for food or an oviposition site. At the same time, the male flew several inches behind her at or just above her height of flight, which was several inches above the water.  It was as if the male was guarding or protecting the female during her foray.
This was another successful outing within a few miles of our home and great to be in the field with another O'Brien of Washtenaw County.