Sunday, June 14, 2015

Big Dragonfly Day Part 4

This post is the last of four reporting on the dragonfly-expedition I made with Scott King to nearby Washinghton County, Minnesosta on 2 June 2015.  We spent the afternoon at the William O’Brien State Park along the St. Croix River. This waterway is famous among dragonfly enthusiasts for hosting an unusual diverstiy of clubtails, including at least one that was recently discovered (but missed this day  by Scott and me). The first dragonfly we found was a rather handsome Cobra Clubtail. I have seen this species previously on home turf along the Canon River in Rice County. Field marks include its striking black and yellow markings and by its broad abdomen tip.
Scott excitedly pointed out a second clubtail, the Rapids Clubtail, shown in the second and third photos. This species was new for both of us. Scott pointed out that the last three segments of the abdomen are solid black. This dragonfly is another inhabitant of northeastern North America, with eastern Minnesota being at the extreme west of the range. The prefered habitat is along large, swift-flowing rivers, just like the St. Croix.
By late afternoon, both Scott and I were fairly tired dragonfly hunters. I stayed along a path along the St. Croix, while Scott explored tick-infested shrubbery closer to the river. Frustratingly, dragonflies kept flying from the undergrowth ahead of me and up, out of sight, into the trees. Finally one perched, hanging in a relatively distant tree. I called Scott, but his camera is better for dragonfly close-up photography. My big lens doubles for bird pictures, and captured the last two shots, both of the same dragonfly.
As I worked on these photographs, I became perplexed as to the dragonfly’s identity. I noticed the dragonfly’s spotted abdomen, dark wing bases, and odd, yellow thorax stripe. I also thought the throax was oddly shaped, almost like an 1880s woman’s corseted dress. Scott emailed back, “That’s a Stygian Shadowdragon!” What a great name. Shadowdragons fly over rivers just at sunset but are otherwise found hanging in trees. Stygian refers to Hell’s river, and the species is so named for this dragonfly's nighttime foraging.  Freshly emerged individuals are found in shrubby vegetation near rivers ((Mead 2009)Paulson 2011). Finally, I should point out that shadowdragons are not clubtails, but Emeralds, more closely related to two of the dragonflies mentioned in my previous post.


  1. Oh how I would love to hunt odes with you! I know virtually nothing about them, kind of my Last Frontier as a naturalist. Would love to write "Stygian Shadowdragon" on a life list. It was great to meet you this morning. I do hope we get to travel together sometime! See you in cyberspace, until then! My blog is --I think you'll like today's post!

    1. I look forward to a future tour with you. Meanwhile, I will add your blog to my list of blogs that I follow.