Sunday, June 12, 2011

John Day River Outing, 11 June 2011

On Saturday I decided to head east and see how the odonate action was on the John Day River in north-central Oregon. I wasn’t very hopeful since it has been such a late season this year in this region, and I figured the water level would be pretty high (the Columbia River has been at near flood stage for weeks now), but I wouldn’t find out if I didn’t look! I went to the Cottonwood Recreation Area (still labelled J.S. Burres State Park on many maps) at the Hwy 206 crossing—one of my favorite odonating places in the state. The John Day River is in a deep, rugged canyon over much of its lower 120 miles or so, and this is one of the few places where you can access it by car along this stretch.


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The water level was high which made the shores pretty much unworkable, but there were quite a few Sinuous Snaketails (Ophiogomphus occidentis) hanging out in the surrounding sagebrush. It was rather breezy while I was there, and for some reason that always seems to make dragonflies more skittish and difficult to approach (or maybe I’m just looking for something to blame when I scare them off before I can get a shot). This male cooperated for just enough time to get a nice image…


…and this female perched at a weird angle, but she gives us a nice view of her striking abdomen…


There really wasn’t much else around except for one or two California Darners (Rhionaeschna californica) that made an occasional appearance over the sagebrush. I didn’t see a single Emma’s Dancer (Argia emma) which was really strange since it is normally such a common species here. I can’t help wondering if they’ll ever emerge this season if they haven’t done so already.

Before I headed elsewhere I checked the river shallows (what I could access without getting swept away in the current!) and I turned up one nymph of the snaketail. Its swollen wing pads indicate that it is close to emerging to join its cohorts in the sage…


Notice the thick, club-like antennae in front of the head which are characteristic of clubtail (Gomphidae) nymphs (and compare with the darner nymph below).

I drove a few miles up out of the canyon to a little stream choking with cattails and watercress. There were quite a few Vivid Dancers (Argia vivida) including this copulating pair…


I also checked for nymphs here and came up with a Paddle-tailed Darner (Aeshna palmata )…



On my way home I stopped at Bass Lake in North Bonneville, on the Washington side of the Columbia River. I recently learned that Pacific Clubtails (Gomphus kurilis) were found here a couple of years, so I gave it a check.


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The Pacific Clubtail is only known from two other locations in the state—one of them just a few miles east of North Bonneville. I had no trouble finding them at Bass Lake—about eight or nine, catching the late afternoon sun on the gravel trail that goes from the parking area to the lake. They were mostly quite approachable too…


The species count for the day was really low, but this was a great way to end it.

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