What Is That… Dragonfly?

2
Waddells

It is always a thrill when we identify, with the help of our friends, a new animal at the cottage.  In June we were delighted to learn that one of Bruce’s snapshots had captured a rare dragonfly named the ebony boghaunter, a member of the emerald family of dragonflies.  Emeralds are known for their brilliant green eyes. Because the eyes of this boghaunter are dull and dark we know it is a female.  Ebony boghaunters spend their time in bogs surrounded by woods.  Their wings are so clear they barely show in this photograph but the black glossy abdomen is visible as are the white rings around the upper abdominal segments.  Perhaps next year we will be able to photograph a male.

We have finally learned to identify the common whitetail dragonfly without having to refer to our field guides.  It confused us for years because we saw various pictures of common whitetail dragonflies that often looked very different to us, yet the experts had labeled all of them as common whitetail dragonflies.  Eventually, we learned that the males’ wings are patterned differently from the females’ wings, and that an immature male common whitetail’s abdomen is not white.  Paulson tells us the common whitetail dragonfly is one of North America’s most common and widely distributed dragonflies.  It ranges north to Algonquin Park where it becomes uncommon.  The first picture below is of the female common whitetail dragonfly; the second is the immature male; and, the third is the mature male.  Clearly this dragonfly has taken its name from the colouring of the mature male’s abdomen.  We see all three types at Three Mile Bay, White Lake throughout June and early July.

During the initial stage of the adult dragonfly’s life, it is referred to as a teneral.  We discussed this in our article of July 2nd and included a photograph of two tenerals during their first moments after emerging from their nymph cases.  In that picture the tenerals’ wings were still soft and crinkled.  Thirty minutes later Bruce took the following photograph which shows three tenerals, likely of the same species, with fully-formed wings. Characteristic of tenerals, their bodies are still minimally pigmented and the wings are shiny.  While tenerals themselves are difficult to near impossible to identify, their nymph cases are unique to each species and can be used for identification purposes.  Perhaps one day we will also learn to ID nymph cases.  In the photograph, we can see three tenerals still clinging to their nymph cases.  In the lower right corner of the photograph we can see a fourth nymph case which a teneral has already abandoned.

In this article, we depended upon Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East by Dennis Paulson; Dragonflies of the North Woods by Kurt Mead; and, The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Provincial Park by Colin Jones et al.