The first odonate I saw at the lagoons was a lovely Ebony Jewelwing just beyond the gate. The black, fluttering wings reminded me of a butterfly as it flew from perch to perch.
The Ebony Jewelwing is one of two broad-winged damselfly species found in Ottawa; the other is the River Jewelwing, which I haven’t seen yet this year. Both of them are usually found near streams, though both species often forage in forests as well. This is a female, as evidenced by the white multi-celled pseudostigma on each wing.
When I reached the little observation platform I noticed a small orange butterfly fluttering around a pile of scat. It wasn’t until it landed in a shrub nearby that I identified it as an Eastern Comma. This is only the second one I’ve seen this year; it’s been a poor year for butterflies.
I saw a couple of spreadwing damselflies flitting about the vegetation growing next to the path and looked for a male to catch with my net. When I caught one I was surprised to identify it as a Lyre-tipped Spreadwing; I haven’t seen one of these since I got my lifers at a pond along March Valley Road back in 2009. Chris Lewis told me she had recently seen quite a lot of these small spreadwings at the Bruce Pit, so now is definitely time to see them!
The Lyre-tipped Spreadwing is one of the smaller spreadwing damselflies. It is dark in appearance with narrow, pale green shoulder stripes and blue eyes. The abdomen often shows green iridescence.
These damselflies are named for the distinctive S-shaped lower claspers which resemble the stringed instruments used by the ancient Greeks. These lower claspers, called paraprocts, diverge, which makes this species easy to identify.
Male Lyre-tipped Spreadwings develop a whitish pruinosity on the final three segments of the abdomen, except for a black triangular area on the dorsal side of segment 8 which can be seen in this image. You can also see the curved S-shaped paraprocts.
The further I walked along the trail, the more spreadwings I noticed. I caught a couple of them, and all of them turned out to be Lyre-tipped Spreadwings. Once I even managed to catch three with just one swing of the net!
I followed a little side path and found more Lyre-tipped Spreadwings, including one perching on some Cow Vetch. These were by far the most numerous damselflies at the lagoons – I can’t believe I didn’t see a single bluet during my walk.
I left the lagoons and followed the trail towards the woods and the Jock River. There is some interesting habitat here which I thought was worth exploring. Dozens of tiny Leopard Frogs leapt out of the way as I passed by, indicating a successful breeding season.
Along the way I found a male Eastern Pondhawk and a couple of White-faced Meadowhawks hunting for bugs.
I also found a tiny Sedge Sprite in the same area. I find these damselflies so hard to photograph because they are so small!
When I came to the entrance to the woods I found several Powdered Dancers perching in sunny patches on the ground. I also found a swarm of hungry mosquitoes….as I was photographing this Powdered Dancer, it actually flew up and snatched one of the bloodthirsty little suckers flying around me. I didn’t linger after that, nor did I spend much time in the woods because of the mosquitoes that followed me in an annoying cloud despite the “Deep Woods Off” I had sprayed on.
I was relieved to leave the darkness of the woods and enter the sunlight on the other side of the lagoons. A Green Heron flew over, while the usual Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows sang away in the lagoons. I didn’t find any shorebirds at the lagoons even though some good habitat is developing in the first cell.
As I made my way toward the parking lot I saw a couple of Clouded Sulphurs; although the milkweed was in bloom, I didn’t see any butterflies nectaring on the flowers. I didn’t see any other dragonflies worth catching, either, so I decided to drive over to the Beaver Trail next. I heard an Eastern Wood-pewee and a couple of Red-eyed Vireos singing in the woods. I didn’t see many dragonflies at the first boardwalk, but a small spreadwing in the vegetation just beyond the boardwalk railing caught my attention. When I caught it it turned out to be an Emerald Spreadwing.
I saw two other spreadwings along the trail; both stayed beyond the reach of my net. I did manage to photograph one of the two, though it was half-hidden behind some vegetation. This may be an Emerald Spreadwing as well.
At the observation platform I added a new bird to my Beaver Trail list: a Spotted Sandpiper walking along some of the logs in the water. I also heard what might have been a Virginia Rail or a Common Gallinule calling from within the reeds but wasn’t able to discern which one. It didn’t come out into the open.
I walked to the wildflower meadow which is usually a good spot to find some interesting insects in the summer. I saw several Common Wood-nymphs, Dun Skippers and a couple of large fritillaries – probably Great-spangled Fritillaries – flying about. None of the butterflies landed on the flowers long enough for me to approach them. Several meadowhawks were patrolling the field, including a Band-winged Meadowhawk. Then I spotted a colourful beetle on one of the daisies. My best guess is that it is a Checkered Beetle (Trichodes nutallii).
It was a great day to see so many spreadwings. These damselflies usually aren’t as numerous as the bluets or the Eastern Forktails or Powdered Dancers that I often see; I guess a mass emergence had recently occurred and that my timing was right to see so many of them at the Richmond Lagoons!