The Odes of Hurdman Park

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

Hurdman Park along the shore of the Rideau River is a great spot for birding, but is not one of my top destinations for ode-hunting. This is because species diversity is generally low, and most dragons and damsels found here can readily be found in other spots. The two species that make it worthwhile visiting after spring migration has ended are the Rainbow Bluet and the Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, both of which have colonies here that I discovered here several years ago and have seen every year since. It used to be a great spot for Springtime Darners early in the summer, though it has now been a few years since my last a confirmed sighting. This is the one species I truly miss, as Hurdman is the only spot I’ve ever seen these early-flying darners. The one other notable species that makes Hurdman visiting later in the summer, while the Cherry-faced Meadowhawks are still flying, is the Wandering Glider. I have seen these migratory dragonflies flying in small swarms with Common Green Darners in open areas in at least three different years, and hope to see them later this year when they become more common.

Ebony Jewelwings breed in swift-moving streams, and as the Rideau River is quite sluggish in this area, it’s a mystery to me as to where they come from. They are known to travel to wooded areas for foraging, however, which explains why I’ve found them here and in the Nortel Woods in the past. I usually see one – just one – each spring at Hurdman, often perching openly along the feeder path. This year was no exception; I found a single male on May 29th.

Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing

A little smaller and much more abundant are the Eastern Forktails that can be found perching in the dense grassy vegetation that lines the bike paths and river bank. They are usually the first damselflies that I see each year; I saw my first ones on May 26th, though I wasn’t able to photograph any until the 29th.

Eastern Forktail

Eastern Forktail

The above Eastern Forktail is a mature female; when the female first emerges, her thorax and the first three segments of her abdomen are bright orange. Over time, her eyes turn green and her body develops a bluish-gray pruinosity. Males, on the other hand, retain their black and green thorax, black abdomen, and 8th and 9th blue segments.

Eastern Forktail

Eastern Forktail

Powdered Dancers are also common at Hurdman, and fly from late spring through early fall. They prefer to perch on the ground, and can be seen resting on the bike path, the gravel path through the woods, and rocky places along the water’s edge. I saw my first ones this year on May 29th, only three days after I found my first Eastern Forktails. Usually there’s a bit more of a delay between my first sightings of these two species, but since I can’t get out every day I’m not sure whether there is a significant difference in the start of the flight season of these two species. Accordingly to the Ottawa checklist, Eastern Forktails start flying in early May and Powdered Dancers start flying in early June. I’ve been to Hurdman frequently this spring, and did not see any Eastern Forktails around, including on my previous visit of May 21, 2015.

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

Some other interesting bugs were around on my May 29th visit, including this 14-spotted Lady Beetle (Propylea quatuordecimpunctata) trundling along the stem of a large plant. This non-native species arrived from Europe in the 1960s via ships stopping at ports along the St. Lawrence River. First reported near Quebec City in 1968, the yellow elytra has rectangular black spots unlike any native North American lady beetle. It is also known as the Chess-board Lady Beetle or simply “P14”. The 14-spotted Lady Beetle feeds on aphids; it is a great friend to gardeners as, like many other lady beetles, both the adult and larvae eat aphids.

14-Spotted Lady Beetle

14-Spotted Lady Beetle

Another interesting bug was this Two-spotted Stinkbug, a species I’ve seen in my own garden.

Two-spotted stinkbug

Two-spotted stinkbug

A new beetle for me is this tiny Mottled Tortoise Beetle which I found in the same spot along the river where I’ve seen Golden Tortoise Beetle in previous years. It had the same shape and same golden colour as the Golden Tortoise Beetle, but with a large black shield-like marking in the middle of its back. While reading up on it, I learned that they are called “tortoise beetles” because they tuck their antennae and legs under their elytra or “shell” when they feel threatened. I also learned that many tortoise beetles feed on Convolvulaceae, which explains the presence of both species as there is lots of bindweed along this section of the river.

Beetle sp.

Mottled Tortoise Beetle

While looking out at the river I noticed a mosaic darner patrolling a section close to where the Rainbow Bluets emerge later in the season. I wasn’t able to get a good look at the thorax, but the only mosaic darner I know of that flies this early is the Springtime Darner. I was excited to think that these dragonflies might still be around, and despite looking in the usual sunny openings where I’ve seen them in the past, I was not able to find any perching.

On June 3rd I returned to Hurdman to look for damselflies (Stream Bluets in particular) and was surprised to find this clubtail in the vegetation near the river instead. I have only had one other clubtail at Hurdman since I became interested in odonates, and that was a Black-shouldered Spinyleg right on the river. This Lancet Clubtail was the only one of its kind in the area, and it flew off when I tried to get closer for a photo.

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

To my surprise a second dragonfly was hunting in the same area, this one an emerald. I wasn’t surprised to identify it as a Racket-tailed Emerald, a species I’ve seen here before but never more than one or two at a time. It had brown eyes instead of the bright green of a mature individual, leading me to believe it had emerged somewhere close by recently.

Racket-tailed Emerald

Racket-tailed Emerald

I was really happy to see these dragonflies, as I usually don’t see a great variety of species here – the most common dragonflies at Hurdman are Common Green Darner, Common Whitetail, and three different meadowhawk species. I was even happier when I found some teneral Stream Bluets, although none had attained their full black and blue colouration yet.

That changed by the time I returned on June 17th to look for another type of bluet, the Rainbow Bluet. There were several Stream Bluets in the vegetation along the bike path, easily identified by their mostly black abdomen, the entirely blue 9th segment, and the blue 8th segment with a black triangle on the top.

Stream Bluet

Stream Bluet

Several forktails were present as well, including this female which looked darker and redder than the ones I usually see. She was busy eating something, which made it easy to get up close to her for some photographs.

Eastern Forktail (female)

Eastern Forktail (female)

As I scanned the vegetation for Rainbow Bluets I found this lovely metallic green spreadwing. It was a female, which I was unable to identify in the field. It looked to me like an Emerald Spreadwing, the first spreadwing species I usually see each season, but I have never had Emerald Spreadwing at Hurdman before. I have had Elegant Spreadwing here, so I posted some close-up photos of the damselfly and its ovipositor to the Northeast Odes Facebook group to see what they thought. Ed Lam took a look and told me that this damselfly’s proportions are too elongated for Emerald, which is much stockier and has a really big ovipositor. He also mentioned that the tibiae (the middle part of the legs) are pale and the rim of the ovipositor is dark, which separates Elegant Spreadwing from Swamp Spreadwing (I hadn’t even considered Swamp Spreadwing as I’ve only seen them at Petrie Island). The Elegant Spreadwing is a relatively new species at Hurdman for me, as I’d first seen this species only last year (2014) when I identified a male near the transitway bridge. It was great to see that they were still here.

Elegant Spreadwing

Elegant Spreadwing

A little further along, I spotted my first Rainbow Bluet! This colourful damselfly is one of my favourites. Not only are the males easily identifiable, they are quite pretty with orange eyes, yellow legs, a greenish thorax, a long black abdomen, and an all-blue 9th segment. They also have a blue occipital bar similar to that found in Stream Bluets. Although they are primarily a river species, they prefer sections with a slow current, muddy bottom, and emergent vegetation. They are rarely found far from the shoreline and like sunny, open spots. Rainbow Bluets may also show up in newly formed lakes or ponds, which would explain why I found them at the ponds on Eagleson once a few years ago (I went looking this year but did not find any; however, it may have been too early in the season).

Rainbow Bluet (male)

Rainbow Bluet (male)

Females are yellower overall, and have a thin blue vertical line on the 9th segment. I found a pair mating and took a few pictures before they flew off in tandem.

Rainbow Bluets

Rainbow Bluets

Click to enlarge for a clearer image of the female (the blue vertical spot on segment 9 is not visible in this image).

Rainbow Bluets in tandem

Rainbow Bluets in tandem

So far it’s been a fun season at Hurdman. It would be great to confirm that the Springtime Darners are still around, and I look forward to seeing what other species might turn up next!

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