Friday, July 26, 2013

Twelve-spotted Skimmer and Prince Baskettail

Twelve-spotted Skimmers, like the dragonfly in the upper photo, are common across most of North America, from southern Canada to northern Mexico. We have often seen them during these first three years of watching dragonflies, including in Erika’s garden. I was surprised to discover in Odonata Central that the only record for the species in neighboring Goodhue County lacks specific location data. I have seen Twelve-spotted Skimmers numerous times in the county, and Erika and I set off to remedy this lack of precision during a recent outing on the Cannon Valley Trail.

We failed in our quest. Late in our trip, we did come upon several dragonflies flying high above the trail. They appeared to be Twelve-spotted Skimmers until I looked closely at my photographs. The dark spots on the wings are too small and the wings and the hind winds sport dark “saddles.” At first I thought I had a Calico Pennant, but a skeptical email from Scott King noted that those pennants are not usually found far from lakes and seldom high in the air. Scott suggested that I look at the Prince Baskettail. Voila! The field marks in the lower photo matched perfectly. The range of the baskettail is similar to the skimmer, but is restricted to eastern North America. Mine is a second Odonata Central record  for the species from Goodhue County. Just as in birds, often after you first see a new species, suddenly you see them frequently. Last week, Erika and I found another Prince Baskettail at the Carpenter Nature Center. This Washington County baskettail, however, proved to be remarkably camera-shy as it flitted out over a prairie and back into nearby oak woodlands.

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