The weather decided to thwart my plans for finding dragonflies once again! Seeing how windy it was when I went to get my morning coffee, I decided to spend the morning inside reading Corbet's Dragonfly behavior and ecology textbook. Around 9:30am Jarred started texting me which prompted me to get out and see what might be around despite the wind. He wanted to see my extender (teleconverter) with extension tube mounted on a long-lens set-up, so I quickly put it together and was headed to the Conference House Park.
The wind was blowing pretty hard, and indeed dragonflies were not to be found. But, as always, nature provided us with some worth while observations. The recently restored Bluebelt waterway is one of my favorite places to look for insect in the whole park. The densely vegetated edge of the stream/marsh and the tall grasses lining the roadway attract a great diversity of all types of wildlife! Today's highlights were the Red-winged Blackbirds busily going about their lives in the tail phragmites and from the tops of the shorter trees poking above the grasses.
After spending a few minutes observing some frogs from the bridge, we decided to visit the water's edge to investigate what creatures might be hanging around. Upon first glance we both noticed a large school of baby Killie fish so close to land, and in water so low that their backs were almost breaking the surface! A heron or egret would have had a feast!
Closer inspection revealed the presence of multiple damselflies resting on the duckweed floating on the water's surface. A Belted Kingfish came flying in and alighted on a tree across the wetland for a moment or two before letting loose her rattling call as she took off again towards the saltwater.
When we first arrived at water's edge, I took note of a brown object plastered to the top of a pickerel weed leaf a few feet from shore, but distracted by the damselflies didn't take a closer look. Over the course of about 15 minutes I could discern a small change in the size and shape of the brown object. Crouching down and balancing carefully lest I slip into the water, I could see that the brown object I'd taken for a leaf was actually a DRAGONFLY! Seems that an Eastern Amberwing had began to emerge and somehow got its wing stuck to the leaf. The d-fly could be seen gasping for air to inflate its wings and abdomen. Unfortunately, as the left-set of wings got longer, the more deformed and folded its right-set of wings.
Photo of me setting up a shot of the teneral amberwing. Photo by Jarred Sutton.
The time of emergence or transformation from nymph to adult is possibly the most risk filled hours of a d-fly's life-cycle! The compacted, soft bodied adult which is enclosed in the shell of the nymph breaks out and starts to gulp down air to expand out it's body. At this time, their exoskeleton is soft, and the wings have to expand. If there is some type of a obstruction as the wing expands it will become misshapen, and rendered useless! This was unfortunately what we were watching happen to the Amberwing.
After a few more moments at Conference House Park, Jarred and I made a quick stop at Long Pond before heading over to see Claire at Clay Pits Pond Park. At Clay Pits, we took a brief walk to Sharrotts Pond where once again the wind was just too much for dragonflies to be around. There were a good number of tree, barn and northern-rough winded swallows hawking insects over the pond! A number of Eastern Forktails and an unidentified species of Damselflies were hovering low in the spadderdock!