Dragonflies in December

It has been incredibly warm along the east coast of the US until just a few days ago. My birthday is in mid-December and I spent part of that day outside collecting insects in the pond with a group of high schoolers who are doing a research project with me.  We had been worried it was going to be very cold, but it was a gorgeous 75 degrees!  And, I saw DRAGONFLIES on my birthday.  Not just one dragonfly, either.  No, I saw more than one individual and TWO species!  That’s never happened before, so I was thrilled beyond belief.  Thank you  El Niño!

I saw 6 of these dragonflies on my birthday:

Autumn meadowhawk female

Autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) female

That’s an autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), a dragonfly species that flies at the very tail end of the season.  If someone told me they’d seen a dragonfly in December, this is the one I’d think they saw because they fly later than most other dragonflies in the US. Though they’re not commonly reported so late, people do occasionally see them in December, even January in some years.  I saw dozens of them throughout November and up until the 18th of December.  There were so many out this year!

I saw most of the autumn meadowhawks resting on the wooden platforms we use for teaching classes near the pond or on bare patches of dirt on the ground:

Autumn meadowhawk  (Sympetrum vicinum) male

Autumn meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) male

This particular species is not as inclined to spend all their time around the water as other species, preferring to perch away from the shore.  I did see a few fly out over the water briefly while I watched, but most were sitting on the platforms or the ground. Not surprisingly, they were all sitting in the full sun and with their bodies positioned so that they could soak up as much sun as possible. While it was very warm on my birthday and a few other days on either side, there were some cooler days mixed in too. The autumn meadowhawks were flying even on those days, but tended to make short flights from a warm sunny patch to another warm sunny patch rather than taking longer flights. They also let me get really close before they flew away.  They apparently didn’t want to fly more than necessary on the chilly days.

I’ll write more about the biology of this species at a future date because this is very interesting.  Autumn meadowhawks are rather strange dragonflies!  However, it was not the only species I saw on my birthday this year.  I also saw one of these:

Darner on big leaf magnolia

Common green darner (Anax junius)

A December sighting of a common green darner is definitely abnormal!  In the past four falls, the latest I’ve seen a green darner at the pond was September 26.  Seeing one in December was therefore shocking.  I have to wonder where it came from.  Was it passing through, a hugely late migrant that was headed south for the winter? Or did the warm weather trick a nymph in the pond into thinking it was spring so it emerged? Either way, I was very surprised to see this dragonfly in December.  It unfortunately whizzed past me at speed and I got just enough of a look at it to identify it.  It didn’t stick around to pose for photos…

North Carolina is certainly not the only place that has been seeing dragonflies far later in the year than normal this year.  I’ve heard reports and seen photos of autumn meadowhawks from places like Massachusetts and Maryland from December and a few from Canada in late November.  The warm weather seems to be prolonging their season so that people all up and down the east coast have made unusual spottings.  For this dragonfly lover, it makes me happy to see dragonflies so late in the year.  And, it’s only 4 months until the dragonflies start to come back in the spring in my area.  That’s not too bad of a wait.  Not too bad at all.

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

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Well-Nigh Wordless Wednesday: Obelisk

The end of 2015 is almost here, so I’ve looked back over the year a lot recently.  I’m going to share my “Best of 2015” photos with you all on Friday, but this is one of my favorites for this year:

blue dasher obelisking

Blue dasher obelisking

That’s a blue dasher dragonfly doing a behavior called obelisking, a behavior that helps dragonflies control their temperature.  Because they are exothermic (= their body temps are more or less the same temp as their surroundings, aka they’re “cold-blooded”), insects often have to resort to behaviors to help them regulate their internal body temperatures.  You’ll see many dragonflies in the obelisk position on hot days, pointing the tips of their abdomens directly at the sun.  In this position, a dragonfly can minimize the amount of sun hitting its body and help keep itself a little cooler.  If even that doesn’t work, they’ll start to look for shade and get out of the sun completely.

Just a few more days until the start of 2016!  For those of you in the midwestern US, I hope you stay safe into the new year.  The flooding in your area looks really terrible from afar, so I can only imagine what it’s like firsthand.

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

Swarm Sunday: 9/27/15 – 12/20/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logoThanks to work, I haven’t had much time to blog recently, but I wanted to get the remaining swarms reported from 2015 up before the end of the year.  Swarms were reported from the following locations since early October, the normal end of the season:

USA:

Santa Monica, CA
Fort Lauderdale, FL
Holmes Beach, FL
Indian Shores, FL
Lakeland, FL
Miami, FL
Naples, FL
Panama City Beach, FL
Pompano Beach, FL
Santa Rosa Beach, FL (2 swarms)
Sarasota, FL (2 swarms)
Sunrise, FL
Wichita, KS
Somerset, KY
Vineland, NJ
Austin, TX
Gilchrist, TX

India:

Bangalore (2 swarms)

Mexico:

Cancun

Belize:

Dangriga

Here is the US map for the fall flights:

10.4.15 to 12.19.15

 

Click the map to enlarge!

 

The end of the swarm season was interesting this year!  It lasted quite a lot longer into October than usual and a couple American swarms were reported in November.  The past 5 years, a very few swarm reports have been submitted the first two weeks in October, so the late swarms this year were a good 2-6 weeks later than normal.  The season started a few weeks late this year, too, and it stayed warm a lot longer into the fall in the east than typical, so there was a lot potentially coming into play here.  What’s really odd about this map is that there are three swarms reported from areas fairly far north much later in the season than I would expect them.  Most of the swarms should be much further south by early October, so it’s very strange to see a swarm as far north as New Jersey that late in the year.

There have been a few winter reports made from closer to the equator, from Belize and southern Mexico.  These are normal, but it’s always exciting to see activity further south.  Are the dragonflies they’re seeing the same dragonflies we saw in the fall?  It’s impossible to tell with the way I collect data, but it’s fun to think that they might be.

I totally dropped the ball reporting the annual findings last year, but I’m almost ready to post the findings from 2015.  Look for the first post next weekend most likely!  It’s been an interesting year.

Thank you to everyone who has participated in the Dragonfly Swarm Project in 2015!  I’ve got some exciting new opportunities coming up next year that I’ll share soon and I’m looking forward to the next season.  In the meantime, if you see any swarms, I hope you’ll report them!  This is a slow time of year, but I get a lot of very interesting reports from many sites across the world in the winter.  I’ll gladly take reports!

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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

Swarm Sunday: 9/27/15 – 10/3/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The swarming season is definitely slowing down, though there were two areas this week that saw a fair bit of activity.  Swarms were reported from the following locations in the last week:

USA:

Miami Beach, FL
Miami Shores, FL
Pompano Beach, FL

Yorktown, IN
Omaha, NE (8 swarms)

Here is the US map for last week:

9.27.15 to 10.3.15

 

Click the map to enlarge!

There’s been a big event in Omaha and/or Lincoln, Nebraska each year since I started this project and it took place last week.  A big migration moved through the Omaha area and several people reported it.  There were also a handful of swarms reported from southern Florida (and there have been others reported since then too), so it looks like some of our eastern dragonflies might be headed across the ocean to Central or South America soon!

I’ll post again next week since I’ve already gotten some reports this week, but the season is definitely winding down.  Here’s hoping we’ll see one more big burst in activity before the dragonflies disappear for the year!

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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

Swarm Sunday (on Monday): 9/20/15 – 9/26/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Thanks to attending a conference with very limited internet connection this weekend, this is a day late.  However, we’re transitioning into fall, so the swarm activity is way down this week – not a lot to report anyway!  Swarms were reported from the following locations in the last week:

USA:

Phoenix, AZ
Panama City Beach, FL
Port St. Joe, FL
Sarasota, FL
St. Petersburg, FL
Blackshear, GA
Council Grove, KS
Kansas City, KS
Ludington, MI
Kansas City, MO
Fort Worth, TX

Here is the US map for last week:

 

9.20.15 to 9.26.15

Click the map to enlarge!

A bit of an odd arrangement of reports this week!  A few in the south, where I’d expect them to be, but there is still a small amount of activity in the upper and central Midwest.  Odd!  Still no migration in the western US this year, which seems to fit well with the limited migratory reports in the east overall.  With some definite exceptions, cities that had huge migratory events, there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement reported this year.  Very interesting.

I suspect the season is almost over and that I’ll only get a few reports this week.  Hope you’ll take a moment to submit a report if you see a swarm!  Anything this late in the year is exciting.

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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

Swarm Sunday: 9/13/15 – 9/19/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Well, things have definitely slowed down!  After a big, bright burst of swarming activity over the last three weeks, we’re suddenly headed into fall.  Swarms were reported in the following locations over the last week:

USA:

Marco Island, FL
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
Hamburg, IA
Hillsboro, IL
Parkton, MD
Silver Spring, MD
North Topsail, NC (2 swarms)
Oak Island, NC
Pine Knoll Shores, NC
Surf City, NC (2 swarms)
Topsail Beach, NC
Alpine, NJ
Cherry Hill, NJ
Somerdale, NJ
College Point, NY
New York, NY
Mustang, OK
Hawley, PA
Lehighton, PA
West Chester, PA

Here is the US map for last week:

9.13.15 to 9.19.15

 

 

 

Click the map to enlarge!

 

Still not a lot of migratory action being reported, but last week there was a significant migratory movement in my own state of North Carolina.  I heard about this migration through my project, via e mails, and some people even came to tell me all about it after a talk I gave on dragonflies at the museum where I work yesterday.  Otherwise, it was a pretty quiet week!  Little bit of activity along coastal New England, but very little inland.

I’ve gotten over 700 swarm reports so far this year!  Hoping I’ll end up with 800+, which would make this a pretty good year for swarming dragonflies overall.  Keep sending in reports as you see 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!

_______________

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

Swarm Sunday (on Monday): 8/30/15 – 9/12/15

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Reporting on two weeks of data once again, but there’s been a lot going on recently! Swarms were reported from the following locations over the last two weeks:

USA:

El Cajon, CA
Foresthill, CA
Studio City, CA
Ventura, CA
Branford, CT
Clinton, CT
East Haven, CT
Middletown, CT
Redding, CT
Daytona Beach, FL
Britt, IA
Council Bluffs, IA (2 swarms)
Davenport, IA
Dubuque, IA
Grinnell, IA
Osceola, IA
Oskaloosa, IA
Sergeant Bluff, IA
Sioux City, IA
Traer, IA
Waukee, IA
Arlington Heights, IL
Beardstown, IL
Beecher IL
Bensenville, IL
Bloomington, IL
Crestwood, IL (2 swarms)
Dawson, IL
Dekalb, IL
Downs, IL
Geneva, IL
Germantown Hills, IL
Gurnee, IL
Homewood, IL (2 swarms)
Jacksonville, IL
Lawrenceville, IL
Liberty, IL
Mackinaw, IL
Midlothian, IL
Monmouth, IL
Oak Forest, IL
Oak Park, IL
Oakwood, IL
Philo, IL
Silvis, IL
St. Joseph, IL (3 swarms)
Sterling, IL
Sycamore, IL
Tinley Park, IL (2 swarms)
Urbana, IL (2 swarms)
Western Springs, IL
Wilmette, IL
Arcadia, IN
Centerville, IN
Cowan, IN
Fowlerton, IN (2 swarms)
Frankfort, IN
Laporte, IN
Lebanon, IN
Milton, IN
Rushville, IN
South Bend, IN
Terre Haute, IN
Tipton, IN
Vevay, IN
Atchison, KS
Bonner Springs, KS
Burrton, KS
Girard, KS
Goddard, KS
Newton, KS
Overland Park, KS
Ashland, KY (2 swarms)
Brooksville, KY
London, KY
Shelbyville, KY
Amesbury, MA
Dighton, MA
Huntington, MA
Ipswich, MA (2 swarms)
Newbury, MA
Newburyport, MA
Clarksburg, MD
Baroda, MI
Dowling, MI
East Tawas, MI
Lasalle , MI
Roseville, MI
Apple Valley, MN
Butterfield, MN
Dennison, MN (2 swarms)
Lakeville, MI
Blue Springs, MO
Cameron, MO
Clinton, MO
Edina, MO
Holt, MO
Kansas City, MO (3 swarms)
Kirksville, MO
Lee’s Summit, MO
Memphis, MO
Odessa, MO
Platte City, MO
Plattsburg, MO
Richland, MO
Richmond, MO
Troy, MO
Warrensburg, MO
Asheville, NC
Bismarck, ND
Eagle, NE
Firth, NE
Omaha, NE
Exeter, NH
Hampton, NH
Kensington, NH (3 swarms)
Moultonborough, NH
South Hampton, NH
Alloway Township, NJ
Livingston , NJ
Long Valley, NJ
Paramus, NJ
Ringoes, NJ
Somerset, NJ
Trenton, NJ
West Caldwell, NJ
Woolwich Township, NJ
Bayside, NY
Cleveland, NY
Cutchogue, NY
Greenburgh, NY
Lacona, NY
Warners, NY
Brookville, OH
Butler, OH
Chauncey, OH
Cincinnati, OH (3 swarms)
Columbus, OH (8 swarms)
Convoy, OH
Covington, OH
Cumberland, OH
Dayton, OH (3 swarms)
Delaware, OH (2 swarms)
Derby, OH
Dublin, OH (4 swarms)
Dunkirk, OH
Enon, OH
Fostoria, OH
Frankfort, OH
Galloway, OH (2 swarms)
Hartford, OH
Lancaster, OH
Lewis Center, OH (2 swarms)
Lynchburg, OH
Madeira, OH
Mount Victory, OH
New Holland, OH
New Madison, OH
New Richmond, OH
Plain City, OH
Sylvania, OH
Tontogany, OH
Upper Sandusky, OH
Utica, OH
Wilmington, OH
Milford. OH
Allentown, PA
Avondale, PA
Huntingdon Valley, PA
Knoxville, PA
Macungie, PA
Willisport, PA
Simpsonville. SC
Chattanooga, TN
Mountain City, TN
Georgetown, TX
Port Allen, TX
Batesville, VA
Big Stone Gap, VA
Fairfax, VA
Lebanon, VA
Bellows Falls, VT
Granton, WI
Madison, WI
Milwaukee, WI
Monroe, WI
Huntington, WV

Canada:

Burlington, ON
Oakville, ON
St. George, ON
Toronto, ON (2 swarms)

And here are the US maps for the last two weeks:

8.30.15 to 9.5.15

9.6.15 to 9.12.15

Click the maps to enlarge!

We’re still a little light on migratory swarm reports this year, but the dragonflies do at least appear to be shifting southward finally.  Last week, the swarms went from being quite abundant in the Great Lakes region and upper New England to the upper midwest, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.  There have been very few reports from the southern states at all this year, but people in the Mid-Atlantic state, the Deep South, Arkansas, and Texas are likely to start seeing a lot more dragonflies over the next week to two weeks as the dragonflies from the northern part of the country start making their way further south.

Still no western migration!  Could start any day.  I’ve been keeping a close eye on all of the northwestern dragonfly listservs and online groups in addition to what’s reported here and there’s so far nothing to report from that area.

Given the big number of reports over the last two weeks, I think the season has peaked and we’re headed into the fall slump this week or next week.  Still, keep an eye out for swarms!  You never know when and where you might see one, and I hope you’ll report any you see.

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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