The First Clubtails

Calico Pennant

The next weekend was clear and sunny so I decided to head over to the Cedar Grove Nature Trail in Marlborough Forest. This is a little earlier in the month than I usually go; normally I visit closer to the end of June. As a result, I missed many of the species I hoped to see – Brush-tipped Emerald, Racket-tailed Emerald, Mink Frogs, and Silvery Checkerspot. However, this meant that I found a few species that I would have missed on a later visit, such as two species of clubtail and a Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchid.

The deer flies were present in small numbers; however, without the Racket-tailed Emeralds to follow me around they annoyed me the whole time I was there. The Chalk-fronted Corporals were quite numerous, but only a few zipped by to snack on my small entourage.

I heard a few Ovenbirds and a Black-and-white Warbler on the trail through the woods. I didn’t see any butterflies in the woods or the clearing beyond, perhaps because it was still cool so early in the morning. There were no crescents or checkerspots flying; however, I found a Common Pondhawk perching on the ground, my first of the year.

I took the side trail toward the junkyard and noticed a large dragonfly zip by me along the narrow trail. When it landed I realized it was a clubtail; I snapped off a couple of pictures before he flew off to a different perch. I was hoping to catch him, but he must have sensed my intentions and flew off before I could raise my net. I identified him later, after reviewing my photos; the rusty-coloured sides of the last few segments of the abdomen, the shape of the yellow markings on top, and the high ridge (the occiput) between the eyes identify this as a Horned Clubtail.

Horned Clubtail

After the Horned Clubtail left I looked down and noticed this yellow orchid growing at the base of the cedars. I had never noticed these here before, perhaps because I usually come later in the month.

Yellow Lady’s Slipper

I didn’t see much of interest in the junkyard area. I heard another Black-and-white Warbler and a Nashville Warbler singing but wasn’t able to spot either bird. White-throated Sparrows were singing, a Northern Flicker flew over, and I could hear a Blue Jay calling from somewhere close by. I checked the mattress for salamanders but found a mid-sized Garter Snake instead. He wasn’t happy to see me and slithered deeper under the mattress. I checked under some of the other debris but didn’t find any other reptiles or amphibians. I left the junkyard and headed over to the pond, photographing this Chalk-fronted Corporal along the way.

Chalk-fronted Corporal

I also startled a White Admiral sitting low in some bushes next to the trail; it flew up into a small tree where it perched, perhaps waiting for the sun to warm it up.

White Admiral

There weren’t many flowers in bloom near Roger’s Pond, which meant very few butterflies. A couple of crescents and skippers were about the only ones that I saw here. There were quite a lot of dragonflies in the area, including a pair of mating Belted Whitefaces and this Frosted Whiteface.

Frosted Whiteface

Although the milkweed flowers haven’t opened yet, I found a Milkweed leaf beetle crawling all over the leaves.

Milkweed leaf beetle

On the pond, a couple of turtles were sitting on logs and at least one Pied-billed Grebe was vocalizing. A Canada Goose family was swimming near the shore, and a pair of Eastern Kingbirds were perching on a couple of stumps in the water, calling out incessantly. I walked across the narrow bridge but didn’t see any frogs. The vegetation on the other side was quite high; I saw a couple of skippers and this beautiful male Calico Pennant. This is one of my favourite dragonflies with its bright candy-apple red colours.

Calico Pennant

The deer flies continued to bother me. I wanted to get a picture of their colourful eyes, so when this one landed on my sleeve I took a few photos. While you can’t really see the eyes, you can see the markings on the wings. The colour of the body reminds me of a honey bee or a hover fly.

Deer Fly

It was getting hot and humid, so I didn’t feel like making the trek through the woods to the bridge where the Ebony Jewelwings like to hang out….perhaps another time. Back on the other side of the dam, I encountered two Dusky Clubtails resting on the ground. This species does not have a noticeable “club” at the end of the abdomen. However, in this image you can see the widely separated eyes, which is a more reliable feature in distinguishing the clubtails from other types of dragonflies. The eyes of this fellow are blue, which is also typical of clubtails.

While other clubtails prefer rocky, fast-moving rivers and streams, this species is most often found perched on the ground near marshy ponds and lakes. It is the earliest clubtail to emerge in eastern Ontario, flying from late May to mid-July.

Dusky Clubtail

After leaving Roger’s Pond I returned to the side trail where I had seen the Horned Clubtail – another early species which prefers ponds, marshy lakes, and slow-moving streams with mucky bottoms. The Horned Clubtail was gone, but I found a couple of interesting beetles including this shiny blue Willow Leaf beetle…

Willow Leaf Beetle

…and this duller longhorn beetle.

Flower Longhorn Beetle

Back along the gravel trail, I kept scaring up Chalk-fronted Corporals resting on the ground. Then a brown butterfly flew out of my path; it turned out to be a Dreamy Duskwing. Unlike the more common Juvenal’s Duskywing, it does not have a cluster of small white spots at the top of the forewing.

Dreamy Duskywing

A different dragonfly flew out of my path, and I recognized it as another Dusky Clubtail. When it landed I approached it for a few more photos; it sat still for a moment, then flew up to snatch a deer fly buzzing about me! The clubtail then landed on the ground and proceeded to eat its meal, allowing for some nice shots of it from the side and from the top.

Dusky Clubtail – side view

Dusky Clubtail – top view

In the first clearing I checked for Silvery Checkerspots again but found only a couple of Northern Crescents and Hobomok Skippers. I saw something in the center of a daisy growing near some columbines; it turned out to be a Flower Scarab Beetle.

Flower scarab beetle

I left at 11:30 am, too worn out from the humidity to go anywhere else. Still, it was a fun outing, with two clubtail species and my first Common Pondhawks and Calico Pennant of the year. I definitely plan on returning in a week or two to see if I can find some of the species that I missed. I bet the deer flies will still be there!


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