Before I reached the park, however, I decided to check the creek that runs between Bayshore station and the river. It looked like a good spot to find jewelwings, and I wasn’t surprised when I found three Ebony Jewelwings close to the water.
When I arrived at the park I walked down to the ponds and took a long walk around them. I found a nice stand of cattails next to one of the bridges by the eastern pond where my attention was caught by a photogenic Twelve-spotted Skimmer, probably one of the most common dragonflies of Andrew Haydon Park. The white wing patches on this individual indicate that it is a young male whose abdomen has not yet become pruinose; they resemble female Twelve-spotted Skimmers until developing the whitish pruinosity that matches the colour of their wing patches.
As I spent some time photographing the skimmer, I began to notice other odonates in the vegetation. A very dark spreadwing was making forays from a clump of grass quite close to me, while a paler one slowly navigated the reeds about six inches above the water’s surface. I was trying to get close enough to the paler one for a photograph when a White-faced Meadowhawk landed right in front of me – my first of the season. Interestingly, this wasn’t my first meadowhawk of the season – I had found a Band-winged Meadowhawk in a park in Emerald Meadows on my way to work earlier that morning.
I returned my attention to the spreadwings and wasn’t surprised to identify the darker one as a Spotted Spreadwing. This species is truly a transcontinental damselfly, found right across North America and into southern Canada. One of the latest flying damselflies throughout its range, it is also one of the darkest – its thorax is dark gray on top with thin, brown shoulder stripes (which are never blue) and its abdomen is black. The final two segments of the abdomen are entirely pruinose, although the 8th segment may also show some partial pruinosity. The eyes are usually a dark, intense shade of electric blue. The two identifying field marks are best seen up close: the short upper claspers (which I noticed when enlarging my photos later on the computer) and the two eponymous dark spots on the underside of the thorax.
I wanted to get some close-ups of the other spreadwing, but it was flighty and did not stay in one place for very long. It was much paler compared to the Spotted Spreadwing, especially in the back of the head, the underside of the abdomen, and segments 8 through 10 of the abdomen. Its shoulder stripes are also pale blue, rather than brown. Without a decent photo of the claspers I have no hope of identifying it, but suspect it might be a Northern or Sweetflag Spreadwing.
A few bluets were also present in the same clump of reeds, but they were not identifiable without a net to catch them – unlike the spreadwings, their terminal appendages are too small to photograph clearly. I am guessing either Marsh or Hagen’s Bluets, which are common at Mud Lake a short distance away.
I walked around the ponds, checking out the patches of reeds growing along the shore for other interesting odes. I saw several bluets and spreadwings mating in the vegetation, including several of the paler spreadwings. A Common Green Darner was busy hunting over the pond, as was a reddish dragonfly which turned to be a male Halloween Pennant. I had to circle the pond to see where it landed in order to confirm its identity and found two males in the reeds. This was the best photo I could get. As it turned out, these were the only Halloween Pennants I saw all summer.
While trying to get a better photo of the pennant, I noticed an Eastern Kingbird on the other side of the pond when it began flying straight toward me. It did not veer from its course, and then I realized it was chasing a pair of mating dragonflies too large to be anything but darners – which were also flying toward me! The two darners separated once they reached land and flew up into the trees behind me, escaping the kingbird with surprising ease. The kingbird circled over the water and flew back to the trees near the river where they like to hang out. I lost the darners and wasn’t even able to confirm whether they were Common Green Darners or mosaic darners of some sort.
During my walk I added more dragonflies to my list, including a Prince Baskettail flying over the eastern pond, a Dot-tailed Whiteface, and a Widow Skimmer. A few other damselflies were present, many of which were identifiable without a hand lens; these included Eastern Forktail, Powdered Dancer and Sedge Sprite. My best damselfly of the day was found near the pool of water at the base of the man-made waterfall – I spotted something resting on a rock in the water and was surprised to see a Fragile Forktail there. I have been looking for these damselflies all season and this was the last place I expected to see one. I later scared another one up in the grass as I was walking back to the ponds.
Another Twelve-spotted Skimmer caught my attention, so I spent some time photographing it as the clouds began rolling in.
This was the first time I had ever spent so much time at Andrew Haydon Park looking at dragonflies and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw no butterflies that caught my interest, and I didn’t even keep an eBird checklist. The Fragile Forktail and Halloween Pennants were new for my year list (indeed, this was the only location I saw either species all summer) making my visit completely worthwhile. I will have to make it a point to go back to Andrew Haydon Park again during the mid-summer with my net in order to identify the bluets and second spreadwing damselfly that I saw. For such a heavily used, public park it was interesting to see so many different odes around!