A friend brought me this impressively large female spider – a good 25 mm in length – for identification, he said his porch was literally crawling with them. I had never seen anything like it before and after several fruitless Internet searches was none the wiser as to its identity.
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
Attaining a length of up to 35 mm (± 2 mm), the Saffron-winged Meadowhawk appears larger in the field than the average Sympetrum spp, approaching the size of a Blue Dasher. This meadowhawk's behaviour also quite different from that of its cousins, it's wary and extremely difficult to approach, staying on the wing for long periods, and preferring to rest on the vegetation over the water rather than the shoreline plants.
The Saffron-winged Meadowhawk is reputed to be local and uncommon, and I had always considered it to be rare as it's seldom encountered in this neck of the woods, my last (and to date, only!) sighting was at Stoco Lake in early August, 2009.
As often as not, different water conditions and plant life generally mean a different suite of dragonflies ... and on the afternoon of August 24, I lucked out and sighted two Saffron-winged Meadowhawks.
Formerly grouped with the asters and named Aster ptarmicoides, the taxonomical powers that be decided that this plant's flower structure is more akin to that of the goldenrods and moved it to the genus Solidago (which are themselves members of the family Asteraceae, so when all is said and done, this is still an "aster").
Sunny, dry areas in alvars and calcerous fens are a good place to look for the Upland White Aster; these photos were taken in mid-August at the Menzel Centennial Provincial Nature Reserve, and Dry Lake south of Marlbank. In fact, at Dry Lake it was growing with other plants associated with the Stoco Fen, such as Shrubby Cinquefoil and Grass of Parnassus.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Yes, even after seven years of "dragonhunting" there are some species that prove to be my nemesis (or should that be nemeses?) when it comes to separating them in the field, namely, the females of Black-tipped and Lance-tipped Darners.
Male dragonflies are never a problem, they are easily distinguished by their terminalia, such as, for example, this male Black-tipped Darner (Aeshna tuberculifera). The inset shows the claspers and the "black-tip" – the all black S10, although in some individuals this segment may bear tiny blue spots.
With a length of 71 mm to 78 mm the Black-tipped Darner is theoretically larger than the Lance-tipped Darner, which weighs in at 65 mm to 72 mm. But length is also tough to guesstimate in the great outdoors, and who bothers to cart a ruler around with them on a nature hike?
Lance-tipped Darner (Aeshna constricta), female:
– The lateral thoracic stripes are relatively narrow and notched.
– The dark lines separating the lateral blue abdominal spots are very straight and quite narrow.
– The blue line on S2 is continuous, and there is generally more blue than dark in this area.
The last two factors conspire to give the Lance-tipped Darner's abdomen a bluer overall aspect than the abdomen of the Black-tipped Darner.
– The lateral thoracic stripes are broad and pale, sometimes almost white, and when the dragonfly is perched in a shady place they almost seem to glow.
– The dark lines separating the lateral blue abdominal spots are somewhat irregular, and larger than in the Lance-tipped Darner.
– The blue line on S2 is broken, there is more dark than blue on this part of the dragonfly.
– The face usually bears a thin brown cross-stripe.
Note that although the colors are different in the next two examples, the patterning is still consistent with the blue form Lance-tipped Darner females studied above.
And why not Christmas in August? In my opinion any day a person discovers a cool plant or animal new to them feels like Christmas.
On this particular day I was searching for odonate naiads in a a sand-bottomed woodland stream near the intersection of the trans-Canada Trail and Sulphide Road (44.494167°, -77.285556°). I happened to look up, and growing on a shaded rocky bank covered with thin soil was a luxuriant patch of (what else?) Polystichum acrostichoides, better known as Christmas Fern.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Reputed to be rare and local, perhaps the Forcipate Emerald is more common than generally thought and is merely secretive, with a preference for habitats that are inaccessible to the average person, such as bogs and alder swamps – or the Stoco Fen.
Somatochlora forcipata is a medium sized dragonfly with a length of 45 mm to 50 mm. It flies from early June until mid-August and this male, encountered on August 11th, is beginning to show its age and its few yellow markings are obscured.