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.

29 December 2014

DSA = 25 years !

Ladysmith, Wisconsin, was the place to be June 13-15, 2014.

 I combined attending this Dragonfly Society of the Americas meeting with the Ophiogomphus searches recorded in previous posts and followed by a quick family visit in western WI.

The meeting presentations were great with a variety of topics and the field trip locations provided access to great snaketail and clubtail habitat.  The Chippewa River just west of town was teaming with dragonflies.

west side of bridge

east side of Chippewa River

Bryan Pfeiffer did a few blog posts noting finds and experiences of the DSA meeting here.

Others have much better photos than me, but here's a few photos of the target species at this location.  Of course, there were many other species flying in large numbers.

male Pygmy Snaketail (O. howei):

This Pygmy Snaketail was perched in front of the vehicles as folks ate lunch. (note the tinted hindwing)

Pygmy Snaketail dorsal view of abdomen

male St. Croix Snaketail (O. susbehcha):

This male St. Croix Snaketail landed in a group of sunlit trees up the bank from the river.

dorsal view of St. Croix Snaketail abdomen
 The location and community hosting this DSA meeting was very welcoming.  If one wants to find an abundance of snaketails, the Ladysmith area is highly recommended.

22 November 2014

Ophio Odyssey - day 2, last stop #5

The Paint River - upstream

I had rainy weather continuing on June 12th, 2014, but tried to check another location that looked good for odes on the map.

5th stop = The DNR boat launch at the Paint River Forks (46.23134, -88.7188).

At this location, the north fork (left) and south fork (right) come together.

I spent most of my time on the south fork due to weather and found a few dragonflies.

Exuviae finds =

South Fork

1 Pygmy Snaketail (Ophiogomphus howei)

1 Riffle Snaketail (O. anomalus)

5 snaketail sp. (Ohiogomphus sp.)

1 Twin-spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster maculata)

North Branch

1 snaketail sp. (Ohiogomphus sp.)

Unfortunately, this was my last stop before heading to the DSA meeting in Wisconsin the next day.  If time allows in the future, I'll definitely want to check this and the previous posts' locations for odes again.