Marlborough Forest Odes

Horned Clubtail

Horned Clubtail

I spent some time at Roger’s Pond last weekend hoping to find some of the Marlborough specialties. I struck out with respect to a number of them (Silvery Checkerspot, Brush-tipped Emerald, Calico Pennant, salamanders and Mink Frog – though I think I did hear one calling) but still found some interesting species. I tallied 23 bird species in all, including two Black-and-white Warblers and a Nashville Warbler, all of which I managed to see, a Black-throated Green Warbler, an Ovenbird, two Veeries, a Pied-billed Grebe, a Great Crested Flycatcher, and an Eastern Wood-pewee.

In the first clearing I found a couple of Northern Crescents and Hobomok Skippers but no Silvery Checkerspots and no pondhawks. Several small brown butterflies were flying at the edge of the woods, and they all appeared to be Little Wood Satyrs.

Little Wood Satyr

Little Wood Satyr

Further along the trail I found a Common Ringlet, a couple of Common Whitetails, lots of Chalk-fronted Corporals, and a White Admiral flying over. I saw a dark – almost black – butterfly skimming over the gravel surface of the trail, and when it stopped I identified it as a Dreamy Duskywing. I have found this species along the open road the last few times I have visited in June. This one was in bad shape.

Dreamy Duskywing

Dreamy Duskywing

I found lots of dragonflies along the road as well, and every time one landed I stopped to check it out. Most were Chalk-fronted Corporals, but I was finally rewarded with a Dusky Clubtail – the first of what would turn out to be many.

Dusky Clubtail (female)

Dusky Clubtail (female)

At Roger’s Pond I was disappointed to see that almost all the vegetation growing next to the trail had been cut down. I saw very few whitefaces, and none close enough to identify. I didn’t see any Calico Pennants, one of my favourite species, and only one Racket-tailed Emerald, which I caught in my net. However, there were lots of clubtails in the area, including at least two Horned Clubtails, one Lancet Clubtail, and several Dusky Clubtails. I photographed this male Horned Clubtail perching on a milkweed blossom before netting it to get a better look.

Horned Clubtail

Horned Clubtail

Dusky Clubtails and Lancet Clubtails are very similar in appearance. Both are rather small and drab in appearance, lacking the bold black and yellow colouration of species such as the Midland Clubtail, Dragonhunter, and the Beaverpond/Harpoon Clubtail I photographed in Gatineau Park. The clubs are small in males, and barely present in the females.

Unlike many clubtail species which prefer the clean, fast-moving water of rivers and streams, these clubtails are found along the edges of marshy lakes or ponds, especially those with muddy bottoms. These dragonflies are most commonly encountered perching on the ground, or on dirt roads or trails.

Dusky Clubtail

Dusky Clubtail

The main difference in these two species is the amount of yellow in the final two segments of the abdomen. Male Lancet Clubtails have a yellow streak on S10 and a wide yellow stripe on S9, while male Dusky Clubtails have no yellow on S9 or S10 (females of both are variable, but none of the clubtails I found near the pond were females).

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

Dusky Clubtail

Dusky Clubtail

While searching for dragonflies I startled this small Garter Snake sunning himself on the path. Last summer I startled a large Northern Water Snake in the exact same spot instead!

Garter Snake

Garter Snake

Dark clouds were starting to move in, and as there were showers forecast later in the afternoon I didn’t stay long. I checked the large field west of the pond for Calico Pennants but didn’t see a single one. I thought I was going to strike out with pondhawks as well until I found this female on the gravel road leading back toward the parking lot. About two years ago the “Common Pondhawk” was split into Eastern and Western forms; the one we have here is the “Eastern Pondhawk”, making me wish I had found some pondhawks while I was in Alberta last year!

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

I’d spotted a couple of large orange butterflies around the pond, but wasn’t able to get a good look at them as they flew past. They didn’t seem large enough to be Monarchs, and when I saw one land on the road while walking back to the parking lot I confirmed it as a Viceroy.

Viceroy

Viceroy

A few large dragonflies were patrolling the air above the trail, most of them too high up to get a decent look at them. When one flew down to about six feet above the ground I managed to catch it in my net. I was hoping it was a Brush-tipped Emerald, but the pattern of the abdomen was that of a baskettail.

Spiny Baskettail (female)

Spiny Baskettail (female)

It was a female, which meant that I needed to photograph her underside in order to identify her. The female’s abdomen terminates in a pair of appendages called cerci, which have little or no function. Underneath segment 8 and extending over segment 9 is either an ovipositor or a subgenital plate, depending upon the species. These structures are used to receive sperm from the male while in tandem and for laying eggs. Both the cerci and the subgenital plates (see the arrow below) can be used to differentiate Beaverpond Baskettail from Spiny Baskettail; this individual is clearly a Spiny Baskettail, which has long, narrow cerci and genital plates that bend in the middle to form a horseshoe shape.

Spiny Baskettail (female)

Spiny Baskettail (female)

I wasn’t expecting to find this species there; although I was hoping for something new, it was great snaring my second-ever Spiny Baskettail and being able to identify it myself!

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