Lyre-tipped Spreadwings

Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing

The following weekend I decided to stick close to home. Shorebirds have already begun migrating from their breeding grounds in the Arctic, and I thought the Richmond Lagoons would be a good spot to look for some migrants. As I arrived I saw an American Bittern land in the tall, feathery grass of the first cell; it stuck its head up and pointed its bill at the sky in a characteristic pose. When I moved further along the path to get a better look, he vanished, swallowed up by the vegetation completely.

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.

Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing

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.

Eastern Comma

Eastern Comma

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.

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing in the hand

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.

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing - claspers

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing – claspers

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.

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

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!

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

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.

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

Lyre-tipped Spreadwing

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.

Richmond Lagoon Trail

Richmond Lagoon Trail

Along the way I found a male Eastern Pondhawk and a couple of White-faced Meadowhawks hunting for bugs.

White-faced Meadowhawk

White-faced Meadowhawk

I also found a tiny Sedge Sprite in the same area. I find these damselflies so hard to photograph because they are so small!

Sedge Sprite

Sedge Sprite

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.

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

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.

Possible Emerald Spreadwing

Possible Emerald Spreadwing

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).

Beetle sp.

Poss. 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!

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One thought on “Lyre-tipped Spreadwings

  1. I was at the Richmond Lagoons today and also saw the bittern fly off into the grass. I am new to Odonate hunting. Was pleased to find some Fragile Forktail. DIdn’t see any spreadwings but I likely don’t know yet where to look.

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