Swarm Sunday – I’m Calling It

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The weather’s been doing strange things recently and I’ve only seen two total dragonflies in the past several weeks, so I’m declaring the dragonfly swarm season officially over.  This means that it’s time to start wrapping up by posting some year-end reports this season’s data.  Look for those to start in a couple of weeks.  In the meantime, it occurs to me that I received two reports a couple of weeks ago, right as Hurricane Sandy was barreling toward the east coast, that I forgot to post.  They were reported in these locations:

USA:

Miami Beach, FL
Deer Park, TX

And with that, the American dragonfly swarm season ended!

On a somewhat related front, the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) has changed their data submission website a bit.  They are now accepting both dragonfly pond watch data AND migratory dragonfly sightings.  If you’ve submitted migratory sightings to me, no need to submit again – I’ll be sharing all of my migration data with the MDP team anyway.  However, if you haven’t gotten involved in the Dragonfly Pond Watch, however, I encourage you to do so!  All you need to do is make observations of a few easily recognizable species at a nearby pond once a month.  If you’re already out walking your dog or photographing things, why not collect a little data while you’re at it?  The MDP is a really great group of dragonfly researchers and they would love to have your data!

Happy Sunday everyone, and look for the first year-end report in a few weeks!

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

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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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Swarm Sunday (on Monday) – 9/30/2012 – 10/6/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

It was yet another slow week, with swarms reported from only the following locations:

USA:

Fairhope, AL
Noank, CT
Pensacola Beach, FL
Cherry Hill, NJ
South River, NJ
Woodbridge, NJ
Scarsdale, NY
Yonkers, NY
Alexandria, VA

You’ll notice most of these swarms occurred in the northeast with only a few in the south.  They were nearly all static swarms too, so the dragonflies seem to be staying put for now.  Maybe we’ll see more migratory movement next week?

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

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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!

Swarm Sunday – 9/23/2012 – 9/29/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

The swarming activity picked up a little this week, though perhaps not quite as much as I’d hoped.  Swarms occurred in the following locations:

USA:

Mystic, CT
Apopka, FL
Cape San Blas, FL
Destin, FL
Gulf Breeze, FL
Santa Rosa Beach, FL
McLeansboro, IL
Hoboken, NJ
Lawrenceville, NJ
North Arlington, NJ
Hastings-On-Hudson, NY
Lumberton, NC
Ocean Isle Beach, NC
Raleigh, NC (3 reports)
Cedar Park, TX
Kyle, TX
Kenosha, WI

There’s a strange distribution of swarms this week.  About half of them are in the northeast (New York and New Jersey) and the other half are in the southeast (North Carolina and Florida).  It’s a little odd that there’s nothing in between, but at this point I’m giving up trying to explain what’s going on until the season’s completely over.  Maybe I’ll have a better idea of why the end of the season is so strange if I can look at the whole season.  Or maybe not!  Guess we’ll have to see.

While there seems to be little activity happening in most of the rest of the country, the field station where I work, Prairie Ridge, has been quite the hotbed of dragonfly activity!  Between my coworkers and me, we’ve seen 7 swarms on the grounds over the past two weeks.  The last few days have been especially exciting.  Right around 4:30 or 5pm everyday, we’ve been seeing groups of dragonflies flying over the prairie.  They’re green darners mostly, though tonight there were some black saddlebags mixed in too.  The dragonflies fly from about 4 feet to 20 feet in the air, swooping back and forth over the grass.  I get a thrill from each and every swarm I see, but these swarms have been especially thrilling: immediately above the area where the dragonflies have been flying are chimney swifts, 100 or more.  Many people have told me about swallows flying above the dragonfly swarms they’ve seen – it happens often.  However, chimney swifts are not commonly reported.  It is really something to look out toward the sun in the distance and see big swarms of both dragonflies and chimney swifts!  I hope they’re eating all the mosquitoes that keep biting me.  :)

Please keep reporting swarms if you see them.  The season normally ends in a couple of weeks, so it will be interesting to see how this very strange season plays out!

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

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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!

Friday 5: Report Your Monarch Sightings!

It occurs to me that although my job involves connecting people to citizen science projects, I’ve done next to nothing to promote citizen science on my very own blog apart from my own project. That changes today! It’s Friday, so it’s time for Friday 5, citizen science style!

I’ve found that when I talk to people about citizen science, there are two major criteria that make projects attractive to the majority of potential participants: they’re easy and they involve something that the general public finds appealing. Guess what a lot of people find very appealing? Butterflies! Monarchs seem to be especially popular, and there are good reasons why. Monarchs are big, showy, and beautiful insects. They’re poisonous, so they’ve got just a hint of danger about them. They also migrate thousands of miles each year from the northern US into a very restricted part of Mexico. You all probably know by now that I tend to be prejudiced against butterflies, but even I’ll admit that monarchs are pretty darned cool. Not surprisingly there are several citizen science projects that focus on monarchs to some degree, projects that tap into that general love for monarchs to do some great science. If you see monarchs in your area, please consider participating in one of these 5 projects:

Monarch Larva Monitoring Project

MLMP is a little more involved than some of the other citizen science projects dealing with monarchs, but I did this once a week all summer and found it very rewarding. To participate, you find a patch of milkweed with 50 or more plants and monitor the patch weekly for monarchs. You count every egg, larva, and adult you see following the protocol, record the data on a datasheet, and send it off on the MLMP website. If you want to get even more involved, there are five total projects wrapped up into MLMP and you can participate in as many you’d like. This project has gone a long time and it’s produced some excellent results that are available for all to see. Everyone knows more about breeding habits of monarchs and seasonal shifts in their reproduction because citizen scientists have monitored fields in their areas and contributing data through MLMP. Plus, what’s not to love about getting outside and looking for caterpillars?

Have you ever come across a monarch with a little ID sticker attached to its wing? If so, you saw a butterfly that was being tracked by Monarch Watch! This project tracks the migration of the monarchs into Mexico every year by sending citizen scientists out to tag butterflies. To participate, you order tags from Monarch Watch, collect monarchs, affix tags to their wings, record some data about the individuals tagged, and then release the butterflies. Monarch Watch scientists can then track the progress of individual butterflies as they move from the US into Mexico. It’s a fun project and lets you handle the butterflies while you learn about migrations. I love tagging butterflies!

Journey North also tracks monarch migrations, but it does so in an easier, much less time intensive and hands on manner: participants simply report sightings of butterflies in their area. What makes Journey North fun is that you can track the southward progress of the monarchs on their website on a weekly basis to see how far the butterflies have traveled at any given time. You can then follow the progress of the return trip north in the spring. Journey North has a smart phone app, so submitting data is incredibly easy – a few taps on your screen and you’ve helped track the progress of the migrations. The project’s simplicity and easy to use web and smart phone interfaces also make this a great project to do with young kids.

Like other animals, there are many things out there that make monarchs sick. Among them is a protozoan parasite that impacts their ability to survive by inhibiting normal growth. To understand how widespread these parasites are in the wild, MonarchHealth asks participants collect samples from adult butterflies. Sampling is fairly easy. After you catch a butterfly, you use a sticky tab (they’ll send them to you!) to collect a sample from the abdomen, stick the tab onto a card with some info about the butterfly, and then send the sample off for analysis. The project leaders are great about keeping everyone informed of their progress and provide personalized information to each participant to let them know the results of their specific samples. This is another good hands on project – and really fun to do!

Nature’s Notebook is the web and smart phone based interface for the National Phenology Network. I love Nature’s Notebook and use it often on my iPhone to record sightings of seasonal shifts in several plant and animal species. While the project doesn’t specifically focus on monarchs like the other projects, this is another very easy way to help scientists learn more about monarchs. Like Journey North, a few taps on a screen or a few clicks of a mouse are all it takes to send your sightings of eggs, larvae, adults, and migrating adults off to NPN. Nature’s Notebook also has some great visualization tools and educational resources available, which make this a really fun project to participate in with tours, in classrooms, in homeschool groups, etc. This summer, I found myself pulling my iPhone out each week in our MLMP milkweed patch, then tapping away and sending valuable data off to needy scientists.  It can take less than a minute to send the data off – truly quick and easy!

That should get you all started. The monarchs are on the move right now, so get out there and collect some data!

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

Swarm Sunday (on Monday) – 9/16/2012 – 9/22/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

Another very slow week!  Swarms occurred in the following locations:

USA:

Lilburn, GA
Boody, IL
Quincy, MA
Clarksboro, NJ
Raleigh, NC
Ovilla, TX

Six swarms last week.  Six!  Note to dragonflies: do you call that a migration?  Huh?  Pathetic…

This is getting weird.  Allow me to place this week’s swarm data into perspective.  During the same 7 day period last year, I got 147 reports.  The year before I got a third of that, but it was a much slower year and Hurricane Irene was’t wreaking havoc on the behavior or the American dragonfly population.  I got many reports each week into mid-October.  This year, I got 6 reports and it’s only September.  Based on my last two years of data collection, I would expect many, many more reports than this, maybe 10 times what I got last week.  Instead, I got 6.  This should be the peak migratory season, and hardly anyone is seeing anything out there!

I had been debating publishing my findings for this project after only three years of data collection, ]i.e. at the end of this season, rather than waiting the full five I had been planning for.  I thought I had this behavior under control and knew what to expect.  However, this year’s migration is reminding me of something that’s important to consider when you’re dealing with biological phenomena, particularly those that are dependent on weather: no matter how well you think you understand a system, nature has a way of throwing wrenches into your data collection.  She’s throwing a big wrench in the works this year!

I’m still hoping there will be one more surge in activity, a clear indication of the migration in the eastern US, before mid-October when the season usually ends.  It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next few weeks!

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

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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 © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Swarm Sunday – 9/9/2012 – 9/15/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

It was a shockingly slow dragonfly swarm week this week!  Swarms occurred in the following locations:

USA:

Happy Camp, CA
Omo Ranch, CA
Waterford, CT
Gainesville, FL
Redington Beach, FL
Edwardsville, IL
Hume, IL
Coralcille, IA
Dubuque, IA
Iowa City, IA
Mashpee, MA
International Falls, MN
Reno, NV
Flanders, NJ
East Hampton, NY
Holden Beach, NC
Hebo, OR
Montgomery, PA
Ocean Park, WA
Sun Prairie, WI (2 reports)

Canada:

Mississauga, ON

How strange that there have been so few swarms this week!  I’ve heard reports from several people along the east coast of weather that changed from very warm to cool literally overnight, just like what happened where I live.  Last Saturday we had a huge storm and Sunday was a good 20 degrees cooler.  Perhaps the cold front is impacting the dragonfly flight?  I really have no idea what’s going on at this point.  It’s very odd to have so few swarms in the middle of the normal peak season.

About half of the swarms reported this week were migratory swarms, however.  The migration seems to be ongoing in the Midwest and along the west coast as most of the swarms reported from both regions were migratory.  But in the east…  Still nothing!  There were two reports in the same area of Florida of a massive migratory swarm, but where did it come from?  No one reported any movement in the east all week and then a giant swarm appeared out of nowhere in Florida.  Curiouser and curiouser!  Normally I get 20 reports of a single big swarm moving down the coast in 4 or 5 different states, but no one saw this one before it hit Florida.  Did it originate in Florida?  Or did all those people simply miss this one?

Honestly, though, getting unexpected results can be more exciting than confirming what you already know.  Now I’ve got this big mystery, an odd thing that I can’t explain.  Perhaps this coming week will provide some answers, so keep those reports coming!

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

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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 © TheDragonflyWoman.com

Swarm Sunday – 9/2/2012 – 9/8/2012

Dragonfly Swarm Project logo

I have to admit: this week’s swarming activity was a little underwhelming.  After last week’s exciting flurry of migratory swarms…  Nothing!  I had expected there to be many more migratory swarm reports this week.  However, many static swarms occurred over the past week:

USA:

Siloam Springs, AR
Avon, CT
Old Greenwich, CT
Jacksonville, FL
Panama City Beach, FL
Altamont, IL
Chicago, IL (2 reports)
Elizabeth, IL
Lynn Center, IL
Northbrook, IL
West Chicago, IL
Woodstock, IL (2 reports)
Martinsville, IN
Valparaiso, IN
Castana, IA
Mapleton, IA
Sioux City, IA
Bel Aire, KS
Kechi, KS
South Hutchinson, KS
Valley Center, KS
Mayville, MI
Duluth, MN
Kirksville, MO
La Plata, MO
Mansfield, MO
Moberly, MO
Pacific, MO
Cherry Hill, NJ
Flanders, NJ
Middlesex, NJ
Somerset, NJ
Campbell Hall, NY
Goshen, NY
Middletown, NY
Rochester, NY
Ticonderoga, NY
Washingtonville, NY
Marion, OH
Mt. Blanchard, OH
Astoria, OR
Elkins Park, PA
Huntersville, PA
Astoria, SD
Brookings, SD
Emery, SD (2 reports)
Madison, SD
Parkston, SD
Sioux Falls, SD
Toronto, SD
Farmers Branch, TX
Rockfish, VA
Belleville, WI
Beloit, WI
Menomonee Falls, WI
Potosi, WI
Trempealeau, WI

Canada:

Tlell, BC
Burlington, ON
Colchester, ON

Hardly any of these swarms are migratory swarms, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the migration isn’t happening anyway.  The most interesting thing that happened this week was the surge in activity in eastern South Dakota.  I rarely get reports in South Dakota at all, only 3 total before this year.  Then this past week I got 8 in one night.  What’s interesting about this is that all but one of these reports are along a very distinct line.  It really looks like the sort of line you’d expect during a migratory movement.   The next day, I got a few reports in Iowa.  Then a few more in Kansas three days later.  Then one in Texas.  If you map them out, you see an interesting pattern in the data:

You can see another set of lines following Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River that followed the same sort of southward pattern during the week – Wisconsin and Chicago area reports first, then the Missouri, Illinois, and Arkansas reports later in the week.  Even if I didn’t get many migratory swarm reports this week, it still appears that the midwestern dragonflies are on the move.  The migration through this part of the country may be a little more subtle than the east coast migration, but that’s not entirely surprising.  The eastern migration is much more obvious as the dragonflies all take a similar path directly down the coastline.  They follow a very narrow strip of land directly along the water.  In the midwest they’re more spread out, and travel through a much more rural area too.  There just aren’t as many people there to observe the migration.  It could also be that the midwestern dragonflies fly higher than the eastern dragonflies.  The eastern dragonflies tend to stay fairly low to the ground where the midwestern dragonflies are often reported much higher up.

Most of the remaining activity in the US is where it’s been most of the summer: New York and New Jersey.

This coming week I expect to see some migratory activity on both coasts.  The weather along the Oregon coast is just about right for the migration of the variegated meadowhawk, so be on the lookout for hoards of these little red dragonflies if you happen to live in the pacific northwest:

Sympetrum corruptum

Sympetrum corruptum

Things are starting to cool down in the east too, so I hope I’ll start seeing dragonflies headed my way soon!

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

_______________

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 © TheDragonflyWoman.com