Volume IV, Number 1 - ISSN 1084-9750 - June, 1997
Greetings! It's hard to believe, but this issue of Ode News
marks the beginning of our fourth year of publication. As usual,
we are running behind our intended publication schedule: we were
determined to have this issue completed before the new field season
took over our lives, but we failed!
This issue, and our anticipation of the upcoming field season,
are overshadowed by an intensely sad event. On April 1st
, we suffered a devastating loss when a remarkable naturalist
and very dear friend, Dick Forster, was stricken with a heart
attack while shoveling snow and died at the much-too-young age
of 52. Dick contributed to Ode News in many ways, and was
a constant source of inspiration and energy. His razor-sharp mind
and phenomenal memory, combined with an intense drive and infectious
enthusiasm, made him an incredible resource and cherished field
companion. Although Dick, like us, was fairly new to dragonflies,
he attacked this new interest with characteristic intensity and
in no time became a local authority, very quickly evolving from
student to teacher. Words cannot begin to express the profound
impact he had on us (and many others); he was a true mentor. His
departure is not only a huge personal loss, but leaves a major
void in New England odonatology as well. This and all future issues
of Ode News are devoted to his memory.
This issue features early sightings from 1997, some additional
reports from 1996, an article that Dick Forster was completing
at the time of his death introducing the clubtails of Massachusetts,
a piece by Jackie Sones recounting some of the many things she
learned from Dick, and news on a new video and some recent or
In early April it appeared that the 1997 odonate season was about
to get off to a very early start. Bob Barber reported many early
odonates in southern New Jersey during the first half of the month,
and several species of butterflies made record-early appearances
locally. However, in mid-April cold, wet weather settled in and
continued with little letup for the next month or so. Thus, the
season ended up being very late instead. Indicative of the season's
tardiness, last year we recorded 20 species of odonates on Cape
Cod during May, while this year's total was just 11 species.
Initialed observers: Bill Loughran, Brian Malcolm, Blair
Nikula, Jackie Sones, Peter Trimble, Jeremiah Trimble, and Dick
The first dragonfly sighting in New England was of two mature
male Common Green Darners (Anax junius) on Block Island
(fide Ginger Carpenter) on what may be a record early date
of 8 April. A couple of others were reported from Massachusetts
in mid-April, and two males in Cotuit on 29 April provided Cape
Cod's first (BL). However, we neither saw nor heard of any during
May! Common Green Darners are often the first species to appear
in the spring. These early individuals are typically mature males
and are presumed to be immigrants from the south.
Typically, the first species to emerge locally is the Eastern
Forktail (Ischnura verticalis), and this year was no exception.
Several were found in Eastham on 26 April (J&PT), and by late
May the species had become common at a number of sites. The similar
Fragile Forktail (I. posita) also emerges early, and the
first detected this year was a single immature male in Eastham
on 4 May (JT, BN); this is our earliest Cape Cod date for this
tiny, inconspicuous species.
On 18 May, a small group led by Dick Walton gathered in Concord
to search for the very rare Ringed Boghaunter (Williamsonia
lintneri). The weather cooperated beautifully and, although
we were unsuccessful in finding any boghaunters at an historical
site, we did find both a male and a female at a new site! Later,
three of us visited a traditional site for the species, Ponkapoag
Bog in Canton, and found a single male. In all, we ended up with
11 species of odonates for the day, a nice total considering the
late start to the season. Other species recorded included several
Springtime Darners (Basiaeschna janata), three Harlequin
Darners (Gomphaeschna furcillata), a Stream Cruiser (Didymops
transversa), several Beaverpond Baskettails (Epitheca canis),
many Hudsonian Whitefaces (Leucorrhinia hudsonica), several
Dot-tailed Whitefaces (L. intacta), a White Corporal (Libellula
exusta), a Four-spotted Skimmer (L. quadrimaculata),
numerous Aurora Damsels (Chromagrion conditum), and a few
Eastern Forktails (I. verticalis).
The season's first Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura)
was found in Harwich on 20 May (JT) and a few others were reported
by month's end. Also in Harwich on the 20th was a Northern
Bluet (Enallagma cyathigerum). Clubtails, thought to be
Lancet Clubtails (Gomphus exilis), had become numerous
in the Concord area by the third week of May (DW), and the first
of that species on Cape Cod were in Wellfleet and Barnstable on
26 May (BN). On the same date, several immature Blue Corporals
(Libellula deplanata) were also found in Barnstable. On
27 May, Cape Cod's first Stream Cruiser (D. transversa)
appeared in Wellfleet (JS, JT). The next day, several New England
Bluets (Enallagma laterale) and a Pine Barrens Bluet (E.
recurvatum), both state-listed species, were discovered in
Harwich (JT). By the end of May, Ebony Jewelwings (Calopteryx
maculata), Common Whitetails (Libellula lydia), and
Twelve-spotted Skimmers (L. pulchella) had appeared in
the Concord area (DW, BM).
Last year we were impressed with the extremely high water levels here on Cape Cod, commenting in the last issue of Ode News that we could not recall ever seeing them higher. It seemed inconceivable that they could rise even further, but that indeed has happened! The volume of water in local wetlands is mind-boggling. Bogs have become ponds, ponds have become lakes, lakes have become well, you get the idea! Shoreline vegetation is at least partially submerged and emergent vegetation will have a long stretch to reach the surface this summer. What effect this will have on odonates we can only guess, but the impact on odonatists is clear: access has become a serious obstacle at many sites. We may be swimming to the bugs this year!
In the last issue of Ode News, we presented some of the
1996 highlights from Cape Cod, as well as an article featuring
some exciting finds from the Connecticut River. Following are
some additional noteworthy reports from various places in Massachusetts.
Many of these resulted from Dick Forster's extensive fieldwork.
In the following species accounts, letters in brackets indicate
the species state-listing: E = Endangered; T = Threatened; SC
= Special Concern.
Initialed observers: Richard Forster, Dave McLain, Fred
Morrison, Blair Nikula, Laurie Saunders, Jackie Sones, Fred Thurber,
and Jeremiah Trimble
(Calopteryx dimidiata): As many as 20+ of this striking
damselfly were found on Fort Pond Brook at the Acton/Concord line,
9 July - 22 August (RF). Additionally, three individuals were
found on two dates, 6 & 10 August, on the Squannacook River
in W. Groton (RF et al.), apparently establishing a new
northernmost North American record for this southern species.
(Hetaerina americana): A few of this stunning damselfly
were found at three sites (in addition to the Connecticut River
report from the last issue) 17 August - 6 September: the Miller's
River in Erving; Fort Pond Brook in Concord; and the Squannacook
River in W. Groton (RF et al.). Although this species begins
flying in Rhode Island in late June, we have yet to encounter
it in Massachusetts before mid-August.
(Lestes dryas): This small, iridescent green spreadwing
appears to be quite scarce and local in Massachusetts. Singles
were found in Holliston 14 June & 8 July (RF); and 1-3 were
at three sites in Sheffield on 17 June (JS et al.).
(Argia translata): A pair of this large, dark dancer was
captured at the Sudbury Reservoir in Southborough on 12 August
(RF), to our knowledge the first Massachusetts record in a decade
or more. However, the species may be regular at large, poorly
vegetated ponds, a habitat not attractive to most odonates and
Tule Bluet (Enallagma
carunculatum)[SC]: One or two of this state-listed species
were found at three sites on the Connecticut River in Gill and
Turner's Falls (JT et al.).
(Enallagma daeckii)[SC]: On 7 July, two males of this lanky,
pale bluet were at Ponkapoag Pond in Canton (RF), one of the few
Massachusetts sites known for this southern damselfly.
Big Bluet (Enallagma
durum): In addition to the Cape Cod and Connecticut River
records detailed in the last issue, one or two individuals were
on the Connecticut River in Gill and Turner's Falls, 19-20 August
(RF et al.).
New England Bluet
(Enallagma laterale)[SC]: This bluet is confined mostly
to the coastal plain, so 10+ at Tully Pond in N. Orange (northern
Worcester county) on 15 June (RF) is notable.
(Enallagma pictum): This is another scarce coastal plain
species, so 75± at Wallis Pond in Douglas on 9 August (RF)
(Aeshna interrupta): This distinctively marked darner seems
to be rare east of the Connecticut River, so five in Ashburnham
on 10 August (RF) is of interest.
Spring Blue Darner
(Aeshna mutata)[E]: Apparently substantial populations
of this magnificent blue darner were found at four sites in central
Massachusetts, two each in Hampden and Hamphsire counties (FM,LS,DM).
(Aeshna subarctica): This species was present again at
the same bog in Ashburnham where Dick Forster found the state's
first in 1995; as many as six were noted in the period 10 August
- 20 September (RF et al.).
(Boyeria grafiana)[SC]: This late summer species was discovered
at several sites in central Massachusetts (DM,FM,LS), and as many
as 10 were on the Green River in Colrain 19-20 August (RF et
(Nasiaeschna pentacantha): Numbers of this southern darner
seemed much lower in 1996 than the previous year. The few recorded
all occurred in the very narrow window of 13-15 June and included
one on the Squannacook River in W. Groton, three in Holliston,
and two at Tully Pond in N. Orange (RF).
(Gomphus borealis)[SC]: This clubtail seems to be fairly
common in the appropriate habitats (e.g., beaver ponds)
in western portions of the state, as evidenced by small numbers
at five sites in Berkshire county 17-18 June (BN et al.),
and others in Conway and Royalston (the easternmost) in mid-June
(Gomphus descriptus)[E]: Several of this species were found
at Stones Brook in Goshen on 16 June, and 1-2 were at two sites
on the Farmington River in Otis on 17 June (JT et al.).
We are aware of only a couple of previous state records for this
(Gomphus vastus)[SC]: In addition to the Connecticut River
records detailed by Dave Wagner and Mike Thomas in the last issue,
five male Cobra Clubtails were in Deerfield on 19 August, with
at least one still there the following day (RF et al.).
Several newly emerged gomphids along the river in N. Sunderland
on 16 June were thought to be this species as well (BN et al.).
(Gomphus ventricosus)[SC]: A single male of this species
was captured along the Mill River in Deerfield on 16 June (BN
et al.). This is one of a number of species whose distribution
and status in southern New England remains largely a mystery.
Southern Pygmy Clubtail
(Lanthus vernalis): Single males of this tiny clubtail
were captured at Johnson Brook in Colrain on 19 June (BN et
al.) and in Sudbury on 2 July (RF). The status of this species
in southern New England and its very similar sibling species,
the Northern Pygmy Clubtail (Lanthus parvulus), remains
very unclear; the two forms were split into separate species only
a few years ago.
(Ophiogomphus aspersus)[SC]: A male of this small, bright
green clubtail was captured at the Squannacook River on 6 August
(BN), while single female Ophiogomphus collected at
the same site 6 & 10 August may have been this species also,
though there is some question over the identity of the specimens.
(Ophiogomphus carolus)[T]: This state-listed species was
recorded from several sites in Hampshire and Berkshire counties
during the period 16-18 June, with 1-6 individuals per site (JT
et al.). This species may be locally common on clear, swift
rivers in the western part of the state.
(Stylurus amnicola)[E]: A pair of this rarely seen species
was captured on the Connecticut River in Deerfield on 20 August
(JT et al.).
(Stylurus scudderi)[E]: A single male of this handsome
clubtail was captured at Fort Pond Brook in Concord on 29 July
(RF), while on the Squannacook River in W. Groton four were noted
on 10 August (BN et al.) and a single female was present
on 31 August (RF).
(Cordulegaster obliqua): A single male of this large dragon
was captured in Callahan State Park in Framingham on 2 July (RF),
and another was photographed in Westport in July (FT). This species
inhabits very small, woodland streams where few other odonates
(Helocordulia uhleri): At least 30 of this small emerald
were estimated to be on the Squannacook River in W. Groton on
13 June (RF et al.). A few others were on the Fort River
in Amherst on 16 June, on the Westfield River in Cummington on
16 June (JS et al.), and in Ashby on 26 June (RF).
(Neurocordulia obsoleta)[SC]: This little-known, dusk-flying
dragon was discovered at the Cambridge Reservoir in Waltham where
as many as half-a-dozen were present from 1-30 July (JT et
al.). Shadowdragons are among the most elusive of all odonates.
They are subtly colored and active for only a very short period
at dusk. Consequently, they may be much more common than is currently
(Somatochlora elongata)[SC]: One or two individuals were
found in Ashburnham on 10 & 22 August (RF et al.).
(Somatochlora incurvata): At least 10 individuals were
present on 12 July at Tom's Swamp in Petersham (RF), site of the
first state record for the species in 1995. So far, the species
has not been found elsewhere in Massachusetts.
(Somatochlora linearis)[SC]: Single males of this southern
emerald were found in Holliston on three dates in the period 27
July - 30 August (RF et al.), and single females were captured
in Monson on 23 July (FM et al.) and Williamsburg on 14
September (FM et al.)
(Williamsonia fletcheri)[E]: This rare and local emerald
was present again at Tom's Swamp in Petersham, where six males
were noted on 27 May (BN et al.) and three on 6 June (RF
et al.). This is one of only two known sites for this species
(Williamsonia lintneri)[E]: This candidate for Federal
Listing was present again at a traditional site, Ponkapoag Bog
in Canton, where as many as six were found on 7,8, & 14 May
(RF et al.).
(Celithemis fasciata): This small dragon is found primarily
in the coastal plain, and generally in very small numbers. Thus
a count of 30 at the Whitinsville Reservoir in Douglas seems notable
(Nannothemis bella): This delightful, tiny dragon was detected
at Tom's Swamp in Petersham where two females were present on
26 June (RF), and at Ponkapoag Bog in Canton where 15 were counted
on 7 July (RF).
White-faced Meadowfly (Sympetrum obtrusum): A single male of this species in Dover on 14 October (RF) apparently constitutes the first state record in a decade or more. This northern dragonfly has either declined over the past 20 years or so, or is simply being overlooked among the masses of other meadowhawks typically present during the fall.
by Richard Forster
(Editor's note: Dick was writing this article at the time of
his death. Sadly, he was not able to finish it, but we decided
to include it here with a few minor changes. Dick introduces the
clubtails, describes the most common species found on Cape Cod,
and begins to describe some of the other groups found elsewhere
in Massachusetts. In a future issue of Ode News we will
follow up with an article covering the remaining groups, i.e.,
Hanging Clubtails [Stylurus], Snaketails [Ophiogomphus], Pygmy
Clubtails [Lanthus], and Least Clubtail [Stylogomphus].)
The Clubtails represent an ancient form of dragonfly and are generally
highly specialized in their habits and behavior. They are characteristically
inhabitants of rivers and streams but a few are routinely found
around ponds and lakes. Clubtails derive their name from the expanded
or flared distal portion (segments 7 through 9) of the abdomen
in males. The extent of this flaring is variable, at times being
very exaggerated, but in some cases barely noticeable. Females
have rather straight abdomens which are stouter than the males
and are only slightly flared. Unlike most dragonflies whose eyes
are connected (or nearly so) on the top of the head, the eyes
of clubtails are widely separated, a trait they share with damselflies.
They tend to perch on the ground in open or exposed areas, or
on low-lying rocks and logs in or adjacent to the water. Clubtails
are generally brownish in coloration with yellow, green, or greenish/yellow
markings. The markings on the thorax appear as dorsal and lateral
stripes which can often serve as aids to identification.
The nymphs are also very different from other dragonflies. With
only a few exceptions, they are burrowers, unlike the nymphs of
most dragonflies which forage over the substrate or on submerged
vegetation. The type of substrate may determine which clubtails
are present. Some prefer sandy bottoms, others may prefer gravel,
and still others show an affinity for a silty substrate. In general
terms the composition of the substrate is largely responsible
for determining the distribution of various species. Clubtails
characteristically prefer highly oxygenated waters, hence their
preference for rivers and streams, and there apparent intolerance
The majority of clubtails are early season species, often emerging
in the latter portion of May and completing their adult lives
by the beginning of July. Many dragonflies emerge on vegetation
in a vertical position, but clubtail nymphs prefer a broad, flat
surface such as a rock, log, or vertical river bank. Since the
flight season is short, there is often a synchronous mass emergence,
resulting in large concentrations of exuviae (cast skins) assembled
in small areas. Like most odonates they disperse very shortly
after emerging to adjacent woodlands, so that the accumulated
exuviae may be the only evidence of their presence. The immature
dragonflies take approximately one to two weeks to mature, during
which time they occasionally are encountered along paths or in
clearings. Even when they mature and return to aquatic breeding
sites adults of some species are rarely encountered. This seems
to be particularly true of some riverine species. The presumption
is that when they are not patrolling along the river, they are
resting out of sight in the vegetation along the banks, or on
the tops of leaves or branches, perhaps high in the trees.
Twenty-seven species of clubtails are known from Massachusetts.
Of these, about 10 species are very rare, may occur only as vagrants,
or are known primarily from the collection of nymphs or exuviae.
In addition, many of the remainder appear to be quite uncommon.
Since freshwater streams or rivers are not a feature on Cape Cod,
it comes as no surprise that clubtails are poorly represented
there. Three of the six species recorded on Cape Cod, the Spine-crowned
Clubtail (Gomphus abbreviatus), the Midland Clubtail (Gomphus
fraternus), and the Dusky Clubtail (Gomphus spicatus)
are known only historically or as vagrants and are unlikely to
be encountered on the peninsula. It is interesting to note that
one of these, the Spine-crowned Clubtail, was first known to science
from a specimen obtained in Provincetown!
The most common and widespread clubtail on Cape Cod, and indeed
in the entire state, is the Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus
exilis). It is a small, nondescript dragonfly, pale brown
in coloration, with yellowish-green markings. It has very fine,
dull yellowish mid-dorsal arrow (or lancet) shaped marks on the
abdomen. The abdomen is only slightly flared in males. Lancet
Clubtails prefer the sandy edges of exposed areas of ponds (less
commonly streams or rivers) where they perch on the ground. They
are frequently encountered in woodland clearings and along woodland
roads, and are present from the latter part of May to early August.
The only other widely distributed clubtail on Cape Cod is the
Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus). This medium-sized
dragonfly is dark brown with bright yellow markings. The most
distinctive feature is a row of yellow triangles down the mid-dorsum
of the abdomen. The abdomen is moderately flared and the terminal
abdominal appendages are bright yellow. Sanddragons occur along
the exposed sandy shores of ponds and lakes. They emerge in mid-June,
somewhat later than Lancet Clubtails, and fly into early August.
In Massachusetts, the Common Sanddragon is confined primarily
to Cape Cod and adjacent Bristol and Plymouth Counties. Elsewhere
in the Commonwealth they are rare or absent. Curiously, in our
area the Common Sanddragon is decidedly a pond species, but farther
south where they are more common they are predominately riverine.
The least common of the regularly occurring clubtails on the Cape
is the Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus).
This is a medium to large sized, dark clubtail with yellowish
markings. The markings on the sides of the thorax often appear
as an irregularly shaped grayish or putty-colored blotch. Spinylegs
are further characterized by having exceptionally long femurs
on the hindlegs that are adorned with long spines. The Black-shouldered
Spinyleg is infrequently encountered on Cape Cod and seems to
occur only on the larger ponds in the Mid and Upper Cape. However,
next to the Lancet Clubtail this species is probably the most
widely distributed clubtail elsewhere in the state. The flight
season extends from early July to late August. They seem to be
an aggressive predators and I have observed them taking a Peck's
Skipper and a grasshopper. Although they are normally associated
with sluggish rivers, they can also be found along the shores
of ponds and lakes.
Among the clubtails not recorded from Cape Cod is a group know
as the Pond Clubtails (genus Arigomphus), of which two
species are known from Massachusetts. One of the more commonly
found clubtails around ponds in the eastern part of the state
is the Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes).
It is a medium-sized clubtail with a greenish overall coloration
and a dark abdomen with yellow markings. Unicorn Clubtails are
normally found around small ponds with muddy bottoms and sparse
shoreline vegetation. They perch on exposed muddy shorelines,
less often on logs or rocks, and occasionally even floating vegetation.
The flight season is from early June to the end of July. Although
fairly widespread, the species apparently is absent in the southeastern
portion of the state. The closely-related Lilypad Clubtail
(Arigomphus furcifer) occurs throughout much of the same
area as the Unicorn Clubtail. The two species look very much alike
and are best identified by the shape of the terminal abdominal
appendages of the males. In both species these appendages are
yellow. Lilypad Clubtails seem to occur along ponds with more
shoreline vegetation or along swampy streams. They tend to perch
on shoreline vegetation about one meter above the ground.
The previously discussed Lancet Clubtail is part of a group of
rather small, slender clubtails (placed in the subgenus Phanogomphus
by some authors) which are fairly widespread, with different species
occupying different habitats and different geographical portions
of the state. All are extremely similar in appearance and are
best identified by the distinctive shapes of their abdominal appendages.
One of the commonest of these is the Dusky Clubtail (Gomphus
spicatus). It apparently is fairly common about swampy ponds
and lakes in the higher elevations of the state and may be uncommon
and overlooked in eastern portions. The similar Ashy Clubtail
(Gomphus lividus) is rather uncommon, and seems to prefer
gentle, slow-moving grassy streams. Its distribution appears to
be confined to the lower elevations of the state, though it is
unknown from the coastal plain. The Beaverpond Clubtail
(Gomphus borealis) is apparently somewhat restricted to
swampy areas, especially beaver ponds in western Massachusetts.
Two additional species, the Harpoon Clubtail (Gomphus
descriptus) and the Rapids Clubtail (Gomphus quadricolor)
are both poorly known in the state and apparently prefer rather
swiftly flowing rocky streams. All of these species are early
flyers and should be looked for in June and early July.
No account of clubtails would be complete without mentioning the awesome Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus), the largest clubtail in North America. It is a magnificent black and yellow beast with green eyes. The Dragonhunter frequents shady forest streams and is widespread in the state, except in the southeast. They have a small head, large thorax and the abdomen is slender with a barely perceptible flaring at the tip. The legs are notably long for a gomphid, especially the hind legs. The flight is sluggish, often with the tip of the abdomen held in a down-curved position. Dragonhunters frequently perch on branches over streams or bare twigs at eye level. Their flight season is from mid-June to late August. As the name implies, Dragonhunters prey on other dragonflies, some of considerable size. The nymphs are possibly the most distinctive of any odonate, with a discoidal abdomen roughly the size and shape of a quarter.
by Jackie Sones
Dick Forster was an extraordinary naturalist. I learned many things
from him and I thought that if I wrote them down, others might
learn from him as well.
Think about the possibilities.
What would occur in this particular habitat, on this date, given
these weather conditions?
field marks were visible? Was it mature? What was it doing? Are
Spend time using your eyes. Develop a search image. Scan the horizon.
Sit and watch the sky. What have you seen fly by?
Spend time using your ears. Were those the chip notes of a Red
Crossbill? Is that a stream in the distance?
What species are to be expected given a particular habitat type.
For example, if you are near an Atlantic White Cedar Swamp, be
on the look out for Hessel's Hairstreak and Ringed Boghaunter.
similar species. Memorize field marks. Ask the experts for background
Read. Take in
the words of naturalists that wrote of their adventures and discoveries.
Glean what you can from their observations. Delve into records
from the past.
Share. Talk to
people about what you are seeing and about what they are seeing.
You can learn something from everyone. You can teach something
people with experience and write letters asking your questions.
How do I go about finding a shadowdragon?
it be possible to find an Ocellated Emerald in Massachusetts?
Can I find a Pygmy Snaketail? Will I see a Spoonbill Sandpiper?
Laugh. Have fun.
Take a step back and see all of the humor in natural history adventures.
Learn. Take it
all in and build on your experiences. Learn from your mistakes
and move forward.
around and see what you can find. Investigate new areas.
topographic maps and road maps. Check out potential field trip
sites. Discover access points.
words and drawings to explain physical characteristics and behaviors.
Try to be as detailed as possible.
one-on-one and in groups about any topic of interest.
articles about what you've seen or what you've studied.
Record. Be diligent
about maintaining records of your observations. Put in the time
and it will pay off.
on what has been found in the past. Who else has seen this? Where?
Plan ahead. What
sites should I visit in June? In July? In August?
Set goals. Think
about what you'd like to accomplish. Write down your goals and
review them through the season and at the end of the season. Set
new goals for next year.
Feel the excitement.
Experience the feeling of finding a new species or a new site,
of recording a high count or a late date, of observing a new yard
bird, of noticing a common species do something you've never seen
it do before.
Search. Actively pursue your targets. Go for it!
by Blair Nikula
I have just returned from the 1997 annual meeting of the Dragonfly
Society of the Americas which was hosted this year by the International
Odonata Research Institute in Gainesville, Florida, June 6-8th.
Nearly 60 people from all over the U.S. attended, making it the
society's largest gathering yet. The weather was mostly cloudy
and unusually cool (although it's difficult for a New Englander
to think of temperatures in the mid-70s as cool, normal highs
in Gainesville in early June exceed 90º!). Consequently dragonflies
were rather hard to find (or maybe they were lying low simply
because they got word that a crowd of net-wielding fanatics were
in town!). Nonetheless, it was a thoroughly enjoyable weekend
offering a wonderful opportunity to meet and compare notes with
odonatists of every experience level.
One of the highlights of the meeting was the chance to explore
the facilities of the International Odonata Research Institute
located at the Florida State Collection of Arthropods of the University
of Florida. One of the largest odonate collections in the world
is housed here and one could spend days browsing drawer after
drawer containing many of the world's most amazing dragonflies
and damselflies. The chance to spend a couple of hours sampling
the many specimens was an exhilarating - though overwhelming -
experience and helped compensate for the relative paucity of live
bugs in the field.
Despite the disparate backgrounds and range of experience of the
attendees, a sense of warm camaraderie infused the weekend. Many
of the top odonatologists in the country were present and, without
exception, they were friendly and willing to share their considerable
knowledge with even the rankest novice. The informal evening programs
were both entertaining and informative.
Next year's meeting will be in Nebraska, probably sometime in July - perhaps I'll see you there!
We've scheduled three field trips for the upcoming field season.
All trips are highly weather-dependent, so be sure to check with
the leader the day before if the weather seems questionable.
June 28: Squannacook River, W. Groton
Leader: Blair Nikula (508-432-6348)
The Squannacook River is one of the most pristine in eastern Massachusetts and supports a rich riverine odonate fauna. Some of the species we hope to see are Moustached Clubtail (Gomphus brevis), Ashy Clubtail (G. lividus), Twin-spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster maculata), Illinois River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis), and Uhler's Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri). We'll also visit some other potentially productive habitats in the area.
ð Meet at 9:00
a.m. at the North Middlesex Regional Technical High School on
Route 119 in Townsend (turn into the school parking lot at the
blinking yellow light, across from McDonald's and just east of
Dunkin Donuts and Subway).
July 19: Athol/Petersham area
Leader: Dave Small (508-249-2094)
This trip is offered in conjunction with the Athol Bird & Nature Club and will visit a variety of habitats, including Tom's Swamp where several species of emeralds (Corduliidae) are possible, in particular the Incurvate Emerald (Somatochlora incurvata) which is known in Massachusetts only from this site.
ð Meet at 9:00
a.m. at the Quabbin Woods Restaurant near the intersection of
Route 122 & Route 32 in Petersham.
August 23: Connecticut River, Deerfield
Leader: Dave McLain (413-584-6940)
The Connecticut River is home to several species of rare (or at least rarely seen) state-listed clubtails (Gomphidae), including at least three species in the genus Stylurus which fly late in the season. There is a chance we could find all three of these elusive bugs on this trip. Several other riverine species are also possible.
ð Meet at 9:00 a.m. at the dirt parking area on the west side of the river, just north of the Sunderland Bridge (off Rte. 116). Call Dave or Blair (508-432-6348) for specific directions.
Although we may have to wait awhile longer for a thorough field guide to dragonflies, we are delighted to report that there is now a dragonfly video available! Dick Walton and Dick Forster have combined their many talents to produce "Common Dragonflies of the Northeast." The video presents superb footage of 44 species of dragonflies (no damselflies) commonly found in the northeastern states, and covers identification, behavior, and habitats. If you've been wondering exactly what a Prince Baskettail, or a Springtime Darner, or a Widow Skimmer looks like, this video is what you've been waiting for! The video runs for about 30 minutes and sells for $24.95 plus $5.00 S&H. It is scheduled to be available June 25th and can be ordered from: NHS, 7 Concord Greene #8, Concord, MA 01742. Make checks payable to: NHS.
The Dragonfly Society of the Americas is holdig their Northeastern Regional Meeting in Castleton, Vermont on the weekend of 20-22 June. Castleton is just west of Rutland, near the New York border, south of Lake Champlain. One of the focuses of the meeting will be the Poultney River on the New York/Vermont border. The meeting organizer is Paul Novak of the New York Natural Heritage Program. We plan to attend and will provide a report on the weekend's activities in the next Ode News.
Jackie Sones has continued to update the Ode News Web site.
There are now almost 200 (!) links to other odonate-related Web
sites from around the world. Additionally, there are 160 photographs
of 131 Massachusetts species, and we hope to add even more photos
in the near future. Viewers can also see past issues of Ode
News and read about recent odonate sightings. The address
To view the photographs, go to either the Cape Cod or Massachusetts checklists and click on the name (and sex, where applicable) of the species you wish to see.
Blair Nikula has been working with John Robinson of Lanius Software,
producer of the Lanius birding software, on a new computer program,
"Clubtail." This is a powerful, yet simple to use database
program which allows the user to record dragonfly sightings and
to output the information in a wide variety of ways.
The program requires an IBM compatible 386 or faster computer and Windows95. Clubtail sells for $99.95 and can be ordered from Lanius Software, 1470 Creekside Drive, Suite 23, Walnut Creek, CA 94596; phone: (510) 932-4201. However, Blair Nikula has a few copies available at a special introductory price of $85, ppd. Contact Blair at 2 Gilbert Lane, Harwich Port, MA 02646; ph. (508) 432-6348.
One of the biggest frustrations facing odonatists of all experience
levels is the relative paucity of publications on these fascinating
creatures, particularly non-technical, field-oriented publications.
This situation is very slowly improving and we will endeavor to
keep Ode News readers up-to-date on any new or forthcoming
publications on North American odonates. Some recent news:
A great booklet on dragonflies has recently become available:
Checklist of Kansas Dragonflies by Roy J. Beckemeyer and
Donald G. Huggins. This 16-page publication contains a brief introduction,
an identification key to live dragonflies, an annotated checklist
of the 80 species of dragonflies recorded from Kansas (damselflies
are not included), a brief section on studying dragonflies, and
a list of 27 references. Of greatest interest to those of us in
the Northeast are the well-reproduced photographs, all but one
in color, of 26 species of dragonflies, 16 of which occur in New
England. This checklist is part of the Kansas School Naturalist
series (Vol. 43, No. 2) and is available (free! - though contributions
are welcome) from: Kansas School Naturalist, Division of Biology,
Box 4050, Emporia State University, Emporia, KS 66801.
One of the classics in North American odonatology is Edmund Walker's
three-volume Dragonflies and Damselflies of Canada and Alaska.
Long out-of-print (the first volume was published in 1953, the
last in 1975) and much-sought-after, they are virtually impossible
to find used - we've been trying for three years! Though the species
descriptions are technical, there is a great deal of natural history
information in these works. The good news is that the Toronto
Entomologists Association is reprinting all three volumes. The
price is expected to be about $175 - expensive, but less than
the used sets sell for (assuming you can find one). For more information
contact: T.E.A., c/o Alan Hanks, 34 Seaton Drive, Aurora, Ontario
L4G 2K1; phone: 905-727-6993; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sid Dunkle, author of the very popular and useful Florida dragonfly and damselfly guides, is working on a new photo guide which will cover most of the North American dragonflies. This undoubtedly will become THE guide for field identification across the continent, but publication is probably at least a year away.
Editorial Staff & Production Blair Nikula and Jackie Sones
Fahy Bygate, Jackie Sones, and Jeremiah Trimble
Ode News is available at no charge (for now!) to anyone interested.
If you have any questions, comments, or contributions, or wish
to be placed on the mailing list ,
write to: Ode News, 2 Gilbert Lane, Harwich Port, MA 02646, or send e-mail to: email@example.com.
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