An OFNC Dragonfly Outing at Mud Lake

Green Heron

Green Heron

On July 21st Chris Lewis and I led our second annual OFNC dragonfly outing at Mud Lake. Twenty keen participants of all ages joined us for a leisurely stroll along the northeastern corner of the lake and the shore of the Ottawa River to look for some of Britannia’s 71 odonate species. It was a beautiful day, sunny and warm without the humidity of last year, and not a raincloud in sight! While we were waiting for everyone to arrive someone pointed out a pair of Green Herons in the swampy area at the base of the ridge. I only saw one after the other disappeared into the vegetation; as we watched, it successfully caught a fish, gulped it down, then flew to another log to spend some time preening.


Green Heron

Green Heron

Several Wood Ducks were busy feeding on some spilled seed next to the road, and when our group approached they quickly waddled into the pond. A few small babies were swimming nearby; to me they are the epitome of cuteness, and I couldn’t resist taking a few photos.

Juvenile Wood Duck

Juvenile Wood Duck

After Chris’s introductory speech, we spent some time at the water’s edge looking for dragonflies and damselflies, explaining the difference between the two. We found a single Blue Dasher perching in the vegetation above the water as well as several bluets in the vegetation, all of which were identified as Hagen’s Bluets. From there we proceeded to the southern edge of the lawn and spent about an hour catching dragonflies in and around the vegetation. For each one we caught we told the group how to identify it, and gave them general information about how they feed, how they reproduce, where they go in the winter, as well as any other interesting facts we could think of.

I attempted to catch a Twelve-spotted Skimmer, a large, showy dragonfly, but it flew out of my net before I could flip the net over the rim and seal off the exit. To make up for it I caught a male and a female Eastern Forktail to show the group, while Chris caught a Slender Spreadwing.

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

A few participants had brought their nets, and kept bringing Chris their catches to identify. Dave Moore and I started wandering further away, and our explorations paid off when I saw this beautiful Halloween Pennant land on a tall weed and caught it before it could fly off. This more than made up for losing the Twelve-spotted Skimmer, and I was thrilled to show Chris and the group what I had found. The group was also quite impressed with this stunning, rusty-orange dragon (my photo doesn’t do it any justice) and spent a long time looking at it.

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Then Dave impressed ME when he came back from his wanderings and gave me his net. I could tell from the angry buzzing noise inside that whatever he had caught was BIG, but I didn’t expect a Lance-tipped Darner, my first mosaic darner of the year! The thoracic stripes didn’t match what I remembered, and I had to confirm its identity with Chris before announcing it. Like the Halloween Pennant it was a crowd-pleaser. The large dragonflies gave us the opportunity to teach others how to hold these wonderful insects; they are not as delicate as they look, and easier to handle than the dainty damselflies.

Lance-tipped Darner

Lance-tipped Darner held by Suzanne

Chris caught a Northern Spreadwing, while I found an Autumn Meadowhawk amongst the numerous White-faced Meadowhawks. Widow Skimmers were also very abundant. As soon as we seemed to have exhausted all the possibilities in that one spot at the edge of the lawn, we proceeded to an opening onto the water where we found a Lancet Clubtail resting on the ground (it bit me as I tried to pull it out of the net) and a couple of Powdered Dancers. I tried to capture a couple of Twelve-spotted Skimmers as they flew past but they eluded my net.

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

Along the river we found an Eastern Pondhawk, several Stream Bluets, a Tule Bluet, and lots of Powdered Dancers. I spotted another small clubtail but it turned out to be another Lancet Clubtail. After I let him go I watched where he landed so I could photograph him.

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

At Britannia Point we found a couple of large dragonflies flying over the water, however, they were too far out to identify. We checked the large rocks in the channel between the shore and the island and found a couple of clubtails perching on them. The only ones we were able to ID were Black-shouldered Spinylegs.

We spent almost four hours searching for odonates and found 21 species altogether – 7 more than we had last year! Our trip list is as follows:

Northern Spreadwing
Slender Spreadwing
Powdered Dancer
Marsh Bluet
Hagen’s Bluet
Tule Bluet
Stream Bluet
Eastern Forktail
Common Green Darner
Lance-tipped Darner
Black-shouldered Spinyleg
Lancet Clubtail
Eastern Pondhawk
Blue Dasher
Halloween Pennant
Dot-tailed Whiteface
White-faced Meadowhawk
Autumn Meadowhawk
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Widow Skimmer
Common Whitetail

We had an excellent, enthusiastic group and it was a pleasure teaching them about these wonderful insects. Hopefully we were able to instill in them a new appreciation for these fierce, flying predators – even if they don’t remember all of the names afterward!

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4 thoughts on “An OFNC Dragonfly Outing at Mud Lake

    • I’m glad you were able to come – and that we had such a great day in terms of weather, people and bugs. It was definitely a success based on all of the enthusiastic responses we got each time we pulled another fascinating ode out of our nets!

    • Yes, it’s quite fun catching them even when you don’t have a hand lens! I got my net at the Algonquin Park visitor center store while camping there one year. Not sure where to get them here in Ottawa.

      Glad you enjoyed the outing and got a few lifers!

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