Swarm Sunday: 6/14/15 – 6/20/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logoThis week was a bit slow swarm-wise, but I thought I’d do a report anyway.  Swarms occurred in the following locations over the past week:

USA:

Boulder, CO
Interlochen, MI
Saint Ignace, MI
Willard, UT

And here is the US map for last week:

Swarm map 6.14.15 to 6.20.15

Red pins are static swarms, yellow pins are migratory. Click the map to enlarge!

Just 4 swarms this week, so not a very exciting week.  Three of the swarms were near big lakes (including one near the Great Salt Lake) and one was quite far from any major bodies of water.  Hard to draw many conclusions from this week’s data apart from the fact that we’re still clearly in the slow part of the year.

If you see a swarm, the link to the report form is below!  I welcome reports of any and all swarms!

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

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Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Days with Dragonflies

It’s been incredibly hot in my part of North Carolina this week, and the heat just happens to coincide with the start of my busiest teaching season.  Because I’ve been outside sweltering in the sun and humidity a lot this week, I’ve come across quite a lot of interesting things,but I’m also exhausted.  Today I am keeping Friday 5 simple and just sharing some dragonflies I’ve photographed over the last few days.  Let’s start with a few common dragonflies.

This is, I think, the dragonfly I come across the most:

Blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

Blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

That’s a blue dasher, a relatively small dragonfly that’s found throughout a good part of North America.  I see them all the time.  They’re at the pond, all over the grasses, sitting in trees, sitting on the ground, almost everywhere!   I took this particular photo yesterday while working with a group of high schoolers with special needs who are part of a science careers program a coworker and I are involved in.  We had just netted this one, photographed it for a citizen science project, and I was about to let it go when I asked if anyone wanted to help release it.  This young woman volunteered, so I put the dragonfly on her sleeve.  It sat there long enough to snap a photo, so I got to document a happy moment for a very promising young woman.  What an awesome group to work with!

Another very common dragonfly in my area is the common whitetail.  It even has “common” in the name!  I found this female sitting on the trail this afternoon:

Common whitetail, Plathemis lydia

Common whitetail, Plathemis lydia

I find dozens of males at the pond each time I visit, but I find most of the females sitting on the trails far from the water.  They seem to like basking in the sun in little patches of dirt, so a walk down nearly any trail will likely yield you a half-dozen or more females.  I love the patterns on their wings!  Gorgeous, even if they are super common.

Another dirt lover:

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis

The eastern pondhawks, both the males depicted in the photo and the green females, are often found near the female common whitetails on the trails.  They seem to be particularly abundant recently, though it could be that they’re hot and behaving a bit differently than usual.  This particular male is showing a little bit of green on his throax.  While they appear blue, it’s because they grow a waxy coating as they mature and it’s the wax that gives them the bluish tinge.  Underneath the wax, the males look just like the females.

I was THRILLED to see this dragonfly today:

Halloween pennant, Celithemis eponina

Halloween pennant, Celithemis eponina

My first Halloween pennant of the year!  I never see these at the ponds, but last year I saw lots of them out in the prairie.  Here’s hoping I’ll see many more this year!

And finally, my most exciting dragonfly sighting of the day:

Purple Martin with Dragonfly

Nom nom nom!

I have always wanted to get a photo of a bird with a dragonfly in its beak and today it happened!  That’s a purple martin with… I’m not sure.  I was thinking it was just a blue dasher, but upon closer inspection there’s a distinctly clubbed tail on this dragonfly, which makes it both a) very exciting because we have never gotten a confirmed report of any clubtails at Prairie Ridge and b) annoying because I don’t think it’s possible to ID it from this photo.  Shortly after I snapped this, the bird turned around and took the dragonfly inside the nest.  When she came back out, the dragonfly was gone, so I imagine that it’s now residing in the bellies of 4-5 hungry baby martins.

All in all, a good couple of days dragonfly-wise.  This summer is shaping up to be very interesting, so even though it’s ghastly hot, I’m still thrilled to spend as much time outside as I can.  I don’t want to miss a thing!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Crayfish (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

This is the first week of summer camps at the field station where I work and I’ve been doing daily citizen science programs with the middle schoolers that make up this week’s campers. Today we got into the stream to assess water quality, my favorite thing to do with groups like this! We didn’t find many bugs, just some caddisflies and a crane fly larva, the normal sort of condition of our stream, but the kids found a whole lot of crayfish. This was the biggest one we found:

crayfish

Crayfish – rawr!

Sadly, the kids thought this little guy was WAY more exciting than the tiny net-building caddisflies we found, but I suppose we don’t all appreciate the gloriousness of caddisflies… :)

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Swarm Sunday: 3/29/2015 – 6/13/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The swarm activity has been rather slow over the last few months, so I’m combining a lot of dates into one report here rather than reporting just one or two swarms each week.  The following swarms have occurred between the end of May and today:

USA:

Goldstream, AK
Boulder, CO (2 swarms)
Homosassa, FL
Lexington, GA
Crystal Lake, IL
Bossier City, LA
Brownville, ME
Hugo, MN
St. Paul, MN
Spicer, MN
White Bear Township, MN
Bloomfield, MI
Bernardsville, NJ
Morris Plains, NJ
Greenville, NC
Lake Waccamaw, NC
Charleston, SC
Port Aransas, TX
Sheboygan, WI
Waupaca, WI

Thailand:

Sritanu, Ko Phangan

And here is the US map for the last month and a half:

3.30.15 to 6.13.15

Red pins are static swarms, yellow pins are migratory. Click the map to enlarge!

Most of the early activity, as in past years, has been static swarming.  Looks like most of the swarms have taken place near bodies of water so far this year, near large lakes and along coastal areas and largely east of the Mississippi River.  It will be interesting to see if more swarms occur inland once the season really starts to pick up, as has happened in past years, or if everything is different this year.  I suspect we’ll see more swarms inland over the next few months, the usual pattern, but only time will tell.

Now that the swarm season has really begun, I’ll start posting more often.  In the meantime, keep sending in those swarm reports!  Every one matters and helps explain what’s going on just a little more.

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Have you seen a dragonfly swarm? I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.  It only takes a few minutes! Thanks!

_______________

Want more information? Visit my dragonfly swarm information page for my entire collection of posts about dragonfly swarms!

_______________

Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Fireflies on the Prairie (Friday 5)

Tonight was the night of my annual firefly evening program!  It’s been an awesome year for fireflies in my part of North Carolina, and the display over the prairie at work has been even more spectacular than usual.  There are literally thousands of fireflies of several different types and they make the most amazing pattern of flashing lights.  I showed them off last weekend to the 50 people to attended a family campout overnight at our field station, I went out earlier this week to try my hand photographing them again, and I went on the news yesterday with some live fireflies to promote tonight’s program, so I’ve had fireflies on the brain all week.  It seems only fitting that Friday 5 feature fireflies this week!  Let’s kick things off with some photos of some local fireflies I took in my whitebox last night, the ones that went on the news with me.  This one is, I believe, Photinus pyralis, the common eastern firefly:

 

Photinus pyralis

Photinus pyralis?

These are far and away the most common fireflies I see at my home and at work.  They are about 1 cm long and have a lovely pink and black patch on their thorax, plus they make an awesome yellow-green J shaped flash pattern that’s really easy to see.  They don’t feed at all as adults.  I am still ridiculously excited about running around in my yard catching these and do so at every opportunity.  My neighbors probably think I’m crazy, but I don’t mind.

This one was almost half the size of the individual above:

Smaller Photinus

Smaller Photinus

I found it under a leaf on a bigleaf magnolia tree.  It was actually a little hard to find, a tiny firefly on a HUGE leaf!  I never got to see it flash, but given the difference in size and the pattern on the thorax, I am fairly confident this is another species and not just a really runty P. pyralis individual.

This one is from the predatory genus Photuris:

Photurus sp

Photuris sp.

The Photinus-Photuris story is rather legendary among entomologists.  Female Photuris are known to mimic the flash pattern of their Photinus relatives, luring unsuspecting males who are eager to mate in close before they eat them.  I imagine it going down like this:

Photinus male: “Oooh!  Receptive female over there, gonna go check her out…  Hey baby, wanna get freak-…  oh nooooooo!”  :)

I know I shouldn’t make up insect conversations in my head, but really, how can you resist?

Now when I found this individual, I only had one collecting vial with me and it already had a Photinus inside.  I thought that surely I could put the two of them together for a few minutes during the day without them eating each other, right?  Next thing I knew, the Photuris was biting the Photinus!  I wanted to show both off when I went on the news, so I ran back to my office for another vial and pulled them apart.  The Photuris took a big glob of fluid with it when I got them separated and quickly ate it all.  The Photinus seemed just fine though, in spite of having a rather large amount of fluid removed from its body, and they both went on to become media darlings on the news.

This is my yearly attempt at getting a good firefly photo at night, taken a few days ago on a rainy, cool evening:

Fireflies over the prairie

Fireflies over the prairie

This is 14 somewhat long exposures stacked to create a single image.  The flash patterns in this photo are far and away the best I’ve gotten, so I’m encouraged to try again and see if I can improve upon this at my next opportunity.

And finally, I’m going to leave you with a video I took tonight during the program.  There are a lot of kids and their parents talking in it, but you can see the start of the evening’s firefly display.  It was dramatically better just 15 minutes later, but there wasn’t enough light for me to film it, so this is the best I could do:

Are any of the rest of you seeing fireflies?  A cousin of mine in the midwest mentioned last night on Facebook that he’d just seen his first firefly of the year, so I’m hoping there are lots out and about and many of you are getting a good show this year!

And with that, I go to sleep so tomorrow I can teach an unknown amount of people about ladybugs and citizen science at a big event we’re having at work.  Could be 5 people, could be 1000.  Should be fun regardless!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Common Whitetail at the Pond (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

I feel that, every now and again, it’s worth taking a moment to pause and ponder how beautiful the world around us is.  Scenes like this:

Common whitetail at the pond

Common whitetail at the pond

… really help me center myself and relax.  That might be a very common dragonfly, one that I see throughout the season in my area, but the sight of them never grows old.  They remind me how amazing our world is, and how many things I’ve yet to experience.  Do any of you get the same feeling in nature?

Happy Wednesday, everyone!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

Playing Dead (Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday)

This little snub nosed weevil can play dead with the best of them!

playing dead

Snub nosed beetle playing dead

Seriously, how convincing is that?  I wouldn’t have thought he was alive except that he (or she) was walking around moments before I took this photo and he was wandering around again moments later. Impressive play dead routine, little guy!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth