Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ohio Dragonfly Conference

Wow! One hundred and forty dragonfly enthusiasts descended on Wooster, Ohio and vicinity for the inaugural Ohio Dragonfly Conference. As far as anyone knows, this is the largest such conference yet held in North America. A huge thanks to the Ohio Division of Wildlife for supporting the conference, and to the primary partner, Greater Mohican Audubon Society.


We had several sensational speakers; Bob Glotzhober, Larry Rosche, and Dave McShaffrey all gave great talks at yesterday's inside portion of the conference. We returned that evening for an excellent dinner, followed by keynote speaker Dr. Dennis Paulson. Dennis is certainly one of the world's leading authorities on the Odonata, and has traveled to nearly all corners of the globe in pursuit of dragons and damsels. He gave a very informative overview of the world's odonate fauna, generously illustrated with great photos. I also got to spend time in the field with Dennis, and greatly enjoyed the experience. He is a fantastic all-around naturalist and interested in everything.
Today we all headed afield, and it was a glorious day for hunting dragonflies. Sunny and bright, warm, and little wind. Lots of interesting insects were found; my tally is of at least 30 species, but other groups probably had additional species.
Dennis Paulson, above, holding a remarkably tame Rusty Snaketail, Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis. These clubtails are rather local, and we were finding them near the Mohican River, but up in the grass and shrubs a bit away from the stream.
Here's a female Rusty Snaketail, teed up on the old flower head of White Clover, Trifolium repens. They will allow for very close approach and are amazingly tolerant of us great unwashed masses looming closely in to admire and photograph.
The mob of paparazzi surrounds the exceptionally tolerant snaketail. Many hundreds of photos were snapped of this one.
We ventured mostly to Funk and Killbuck wildlife areas, and the Mohican River, on our field trips. While we had decent diversity, the big darners were notably lacking. However, we saw a number of the big Green Darners, Anax junius, like the bruiser above. This species can be highly migratory and sometimes swarms of hundreds or even thousands are seen in late summer/fall heading south.
Violent insects, if you hold a dragonfly by its feet you'll be assured of getting nipped. This Green Darner is chewing on Larry Rosche's hand. Luckily for us, even the big ones don't hurt; they just create a funny nibbling sensation. Such would not have been true some 250 million years back during the Carboniferous Period, when Canda Goose-sized dragonflies ruled the skies.
Jen Brumfield, one of our guides, is absolutely amazing with a net. She made a number of incredible catches, including this Prince Baskettail, Epitheca princeps. A beautiful member of the Emerald Family, Princes are typically seen on the wing hunting insects well above the ground and often out of reach. Getting to see one up close and in the hand was a treat.
We were indeed fortunate to see this Orange Bluet, Enallagma signatum, out and about in the heat of the day. Unlike the previous species, this is just a tiny little guy. Like many of the orange-colored damsels, Orange Bluets tend to emerge and become active towrds the end of the day and even past dusk.
Everyone was ecstatic about seeing this one up close, thanks once again to the wonderful netting abilities of Ms. Brumfield. It is a Swift River Cruiser, Macromia illinoiensis subsp. illinoiensis. River cruisers typically fly fast over the waters of streams, and can be very hard to catch. Like B-1 bombers, they come in low and fast, exposing brilliant green eyes if the light is one them, and blur past just outside of net reach.
This may be the world's most heavily photographed Swift River Cruiser. Once we were through handling him, we put him on this stick - this is how river cruisers perch, vertically - and he stayed there for maybe half an hour before departing. In that time, probably several hundred photos wre taken by many folks. Here, you can see the bright yellow spot towards the end of the abdomen, on segment 7. That shows up well on flying individuals and is a good field mark.
All of us involved in the planning and execution of the Ohio Dragonfly Conference were pleased with how things came off, and the level of interest it generated. It would be great to do another, perhaps in the area of the best western Ohio fens, or maybe the bogs and streams of northeastern Ohio.


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2 comments:

avid reader said...

YAY! The blog lives!

Tom said...

Jim, welcome to Blogger! Awesome photos of dragons. Thank you for the link. I was wondering where your blog went to (on the OOS website), I'm glad I found it here.

Tom