One day, a few short weeks ago, a cottage neighbour dropped by in her kayak to announce “the dragonflies are here!” And we all smiled.
On May 17, we saw our first dragonfly of the season, an ebony boghaunter, so named for its habitat being restricted to acidic bogs surrounded by woods. Thus, we know there is a bog somewhere near our cottage, because boghaunters are weak fliers, but we are not sure where the bog is. This ebony boghaunter was resting on the roadway, but in previous years we have seen them on the side of a tree trunk. Paulson’s field guide tells us that this small, brown dragonfly has emerald eyes, which do not show in this photograph. Perhaps, some year, our intrepid photographer will capture a front view so we can show the boghaunter’s beautiful eyes.
The second dragonfly we saw this year was a beaverpond baskettail. They always fly in great numbers through the clouds of ‘no-see-ems’ that we also see around the cottage neighbourhood in May. We cheered for the dragonflies as the tiny flies became the beaverpond baskettails’ lunch. You will not be surprised when we tell you that we love this fly-eating dragon.
In rapid succession over the latter part of May, we were delighted to see many additional species of dragonfly, one of which was the chalk-fronted corporal. We learned to identify this species several years ago for its distinctive two white ‘corporal’ stripes on its thorax. We are glad it reliably returns to our cottage every year to feast on mosquitoes and later in June on deer flies.
Also sighted in May, one of our favourite dragonflies is the common whitetail, not because they are beautiful which they are, not because they eat small flying insects which they do, but because their behaviour sitting or lying still on leaves or along the roadside has allowed us to photograph them so easily. Our dozens of photographs of common whitetail dragonflies have enabled us to learn to identify them, even to tell the male from the female. On the female shown below we can see her brown abdomen with white spots running along both sides as well as the three dark patches on each wing. This species derives its name from the white abdomen of the mature male.
We have written about spring dragonflies in previous articles, but this year we have a first to tell you about … the twin-spotted spiketail. We are delighted to have photographed a new dragonfly! The twin-spotted spiketail dragonfly startled us when it landed briefly on the shoulder of a friend, before flying to the road. It was missing one eye and lay so still, it must have been near the end of the adult stage of its life cycle. Although rare in our cottage neighbourhood, we look forward to seeing the twin-spotted dragonfly in future years.
One of the joys of spring is watching all the insects come to life, in particular our friends the dragonflies who voraciously consume the black flies and mosquitos that seem bent on diminishing our enjoyment of the season. Spring is over, though, and we are now looking forward to seeing summer dragonflies as well as all the other summer wildlife, (with the exception of deer flies of course) that grace Three Mile Bay, White Lake.
In writing this article, we consulted Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East; Colin Jones’ (et al) Field Guide to The Dragonflies and Damselflies of Algonquin Park; and, Kurt Mead’s Dragonflies of the North Woods.