Mystery Damsel at Mud Lake

On one Sunday in mid-July Chris Lewis, Mike Tate and I went to Mud Lake to look for dragonflies. It was a beautiful warm morning, and we were hoping to catch up with the Blue Dasher and Halloween Pennant that Mike had found there earlier in the week. Both of these dragonflies were new for the Britannia list, and I was especially hoping to find the Halloween Pennant as it would be a lifer for me.

When I first arrived I noticed a large dragonfly zipping above the road near the top of the trees. When it landed in one of the dead trees I pointed it out to Chris and Mike. I could see the dark spots on the wings which identified it as a Prince Baskettail, one of my few sightings of this species.

We walked along the shore of Mud Lake, encountering Cedar Waxwings, Gray Catbirds, a Northern Cardinal, and an Eastern Phoebe along the way. At one point we flushed Spotted Sandpiper foraging near the water’s edge; I usually see these small sandpipers hunting among the rocks of the river rather than along the lake.

There were lots of insects along the weedy edges of the path, and I stopped to photograph this colourful moth sitting out in the open:

Chestnut-marked Pondweed Moth

I also noticed a metallic green spreadwing hunting the smaller insects among the weeds. I pointed it out to Chris, who immediately captured it in her net. We took a close look at it, but because it was a female the shape of her claspers were not conclusive in identifying her.

Four spreadwing species have been recorded from the Britannia Conservation Area:

  • Northern Spreadwing – a common species, recorded every year since 1996;
  • Emerald Spreadwing – a rare species, with only one record from 2003;
  • Slender Spreadwing – a common species, and can be encountered anywhere;
  • Lyre-tipped Spreadwing – a rare species with only one record from 2003. This was likely a stray since no suitable breeding habitat exists at Mud Lake.

Four spreadwing species have a metallic green thorax: Elegant Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing, Amber-winged Spreadwing and Emerald Spreadwing. Amber-winged Spreadwings have dark, diagonal bands present on the side of the thorax, which our mystery damselfly did not. Beyond that, it is difficult to say which species this might be. Here are a few other photos showing our mystery spreadwing:

We let the spreadwing go, and continued on our way to where Mike had seen the Blue Dashers. We found two males easily, though I didn’t take many photographs because we were looking into the sun. This Mourning Cloak, one of the few I’ve seen this summer, was much more cooperative.

Mourning Cloak

We had no luck with the Halloween Pennant, but we did see an Eastern Tailed Blue, a Tule Bluet (which I neglected to photograph…I really need to work on my bluet identification!) and several Stream Bluets.

Stream Bluet

It was nice to be out dragon-hunting with a couple of fellow enthusiasts again; while June and July are the best months of seeing a good variety of species, this summer is going by fast, and I’m hoping that there is still enough time left to see some neat dragons!


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