After leaving Andrew Haydon Park I headed over to the Old Quarry Trail to look for woodland species. I didn’t see any unusual birds, but as I walked through some sunny patches in the woods I began to notice several tiny spreadwing damselflies fluttering about the vegetation. As I wasn’t expecting to find any interesting odonates, I had left my net in the car. The further I walked, however, the more I saw and so I stopped to photograph them and identify them as best I could without a net. Most seemed to be Spotted Spreadwings, but there were a few Northern/Sweetflag Spreadwings among them, too. Without being able to examine them closely I couldn’t be certain which species they were.
This Spotted Spreadwing was the first one that caught my attention, so I spent some time following her and trying to get a photo that showed the identifying spots on the underside of the thorax. It’s hard to do when they perch so close to the ground, but in the absence of the spots they can be identified by their blue eyes and very dark colouration above.
This male is too pale to be a Spotted Spreadwing. I could tell from the claspers that it was either a Northern or Sweetflag Spreadwing, but couldn’t narrow it down without being able to see a magnified view of the claspers.
A little further along I came across an open area where I found an even larger number of spreadwings. There were more Northern/Sweetflag Spreadwings, and although an attempt to catch one with my hand failed, I was able to get close enough to another male in order to conclude they were probably Sweetflag Spreadwings. A few Slender Spreadwings were in the same area, as was a lovely female Emerald Spreadwing. I hadn’t been expecting to see this ode at all, as I usually see them in June or July. However, the 2008 odonate checklist does indicate these lovely metallic green spreadwings do fly from mid-June to mid-August!
Here is another Spotted Spreadwing, this one a male. What’s interesting about these four spreadwing images is that the females have noticeably thicker abdomens.
While I was watching the spreadwings a brownish butterfly flew by. Fortunately I was able to see where it landed, and I was happy to discover a Compton Tortoiseshell sitting upside down on the trunk of a shrub! This isn’t the best photo, as the butterfly was resting in the shade quite a distance away from me, and the butterfly wouldn’t let me get any closer. It flew off and then landed on the trunk again, perhaps drawn to a sticky well of sap. This is the first Compton Tortoiseshell I’ve seen in a long time.
I left the clearing when the tortoiseshell flew off and started making my way to the parking lot. I didn’t expect to see any more interesting odonates, but then I came across three or four large dragons flying speedily up and down the second boardwalk. A couple of them were darners, but at least one looked like an emerald – a BIG emerald. I was intrigued enough to quickly finish the trail and retrieve my net from the car. When I returned, the dragonflies were still patrolling the area. I ignored the darners while I waited for the emerald to past zoom past me at just the right time. With a swish and a quick flick of the wrist I caught him and carefully brought him out to see what he looked like.
It was another Williamson’s Emerald, making this the third trail this summer where I’ve seen this species! Have they always been so common in Stony Swamp? Or has their population really expanded this year to the point I’m now seeing them on most trails? At least one other large emerald flew by while I was examining the Williamson’s Emerald, so there was definitely more than one around.
After releasing the Williamson’s Emerald I turned my attention to the darners. The first one I caught turned out to be a Canada Darner.
It had an unusually “dirty” face, making me think it might be something else. However, the thoracic stripes confirmed its identity as a Canada Darner.
The second darner I caught was a Lance-tipped Darner. It, too, had a dirty face. You can see the difference in the the shape of the thoracic stripes in these images, which is the easiest way to differentiate between these two large dragonflies.
An Ebony Jewelwing was fluttering among the vegetation beyond the end of the boardwalk – this was another ode I wasn’t expecting to find here, as they prefer shady woodland streams, and I wasn’t aware of any in the area. It landed briefly, but flew off before I could get a decent shot.
I hadn’t realized that the Old Quarry Trail could be such an interesting place to go dragon-hunting in early August. I will definitely have to spend more time here next summer – and remember to bring my net!