Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Rusty Snaketail

Last year, Scott King and I made a deal. If I showed him a yellowlegs, he would find me a Rusty Snaketail. Scott explained to me that snaketails are found along the Cannon River, and often perch on midstream rocks. Despite Scott’s photographing snaketails at the Carleton College Arboretum and in the Cannon River Wilderness Area, Rusty Snaketails, for me, became a nemesis species, to borrow a birding phrase. It bothered Scott that I could not find one, especially since I, feeling a bit guilty about the ease of my half of the bargain, had introduced Scott to both Greater and Lesser yellowlegs.

On 14 June 2015, Erika and I made this year's first canoe trip on the Cannon River from Faribault to the Wilderness Area. The river was fairly high, submerging most, if not all, of the river rocks. We floated at about 5 mph, way too fast for dragonfly photography. I had given up hope of seeing a snaketail when Erika whispered, “There is your snaketail!” (I had given her a crash-course in snaketail identification.) “Where is it?” I asked. “Perched on the bow of the boat!” she replied. “Well, just lie back so I can see it too…” “No way,” said Erika, imagining, despite her utmost confidence in my canaoesmanship, the result of her lying backwards while her husband jumped up to take a photo.

Reminds me of a joke. What is the difference between a Minnesotan and a canoe?  Canoes tip.

Instead, Deadeye Erika swooped down upon the poor snaketail with her left hand. To her amazement, she caught it. I gave her a quick lecture on how to hold a captive dragonfly. The result can be seen in the photograph above. I am not usually a big fan of pictures of dragonflies being held by human hands, but, with such a great story, this once I do not mind. We released the dragonfly unharmed. We saw two or three more Rusty Snaketails, as we made our way down the river.

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